Bulls-Suns Preview

Teague, Butler, Deng, Taj, Noah. That’s who finished the game for the Bulls. If it weren’t for some missed foul shots and untimely turnovers, the Bulls could’ve pulled this game out over the Celtics.

Although the lineup didn’t work, it was nice to see some of these guys getting minutes, and important minutes at that. Teague rarely left the bench for the first few games, but an injury to Kirk Hinrich forced Thibodeau’s hand. And in the end he trusted Teague more than Nate Robinson. Butler got the nod over Rip Hamilton. It might not have worked this game, but the confidence will help in the future. When Rose returns, maybe the four other players on the court won’t just stand around.

One person who always sits around in crunch time is Carlos Boozer. Boozington hasn’t played in five straight fourth quarters, if I remember correctly. A $15 million dollar player that your coach is afraid to use in crunch time because his scoring is iffy and his defense is nonexistent. Boozer was even scoring well against Boston, going 7-14. But his negatibe-17 plus/minutes probably sealed him to the bench for the final quarter. It definitely wasn’t that Taj was playing great, he finished 1-4, but he was playing defense, as usual.

The problem with the lineup is that they aren’t very good on offense. Deng was 11-20 but isn’t great at creating shots. As much as I love Noah, he isn’t the best option for a creator. They would be tough to score against, and that showed when for the first time all game they were stopping Boston, but the offense needs work.

The Bulls can’t allow a team as good as the Celtics to shoot 50.6 percent and still expect to win the game. It just won’t happen much. The fact that the Bulls were still in the game, after Boston shot so well and Chicago turned it over six more times is a good sign. But that’s two games, against the Thunder and Celtics the Bulls failed down the stretch.

Boston and Oklahoma City are very good teams, but even against lesser competition, the Bulls are going to have a hard time closing games out without their go-to scorer. Hate to say it, but Joakim Noah isn’t that guy. It can be Luol on certain nights, but even that is questionable. If the Bulls want to win, getting off to good starts is going to be important. Oh and they have to make free throws down the stretch too.

And that’s the opposite of what they did against Boston. Boston shot 56 percent and had 82 points through three quarters. So the Bulls were fighting an uphill battle, without two point guards. The Bulls fell, but they don’t like to lose two in a row.

The Suns are coming off an impressive win. Phoenix had seven scorers in double figures, led by Goran Dragic with 21, and downed the Nuggets. The Suns won because they only turned the ball over six times while the Nugs had 15 turnovers. Phoenix has held onto the ball all season, ranking third in turnover percentage (.118). They also got to the line 21 times, and made 18 of those freebies (81 percent). Their 15-9 offensive rebounding margin didn’t hurt either. Those three things helped them overcome Denver shooting 53.9 percent from the field.

The Suns defense is what the doctor ordered for the Bulls. Chicago has been struggling on offense all year, hitting 100 points just once, against the Cavaliers (they scored 115 that game). But they should have a good chance to do it against the Suns. Phoenix is 27th in defensive rating (108.9) and 4th in pace (94.6), which is a recipe for a lot of points. Opponents have a .516 effective field goal percentage against Phoenix, good for 28th in the league.

The Bulls are right in the middle of the road offensively, 15th in offensive rating (102.9) and 19th in effective field goal percentage (.469). That tends to happen when your best offensive creator is Joakim Noah.

After playing six of the first seven at home, the Bulls start the circus road trip. The Bulls play their next five on the road and don’t return home until the 26th. Luckily for the Bulls, it starts off easy against the Suns, but it gets tougher, visiting the Clippers, Trail Blazers, Rockets and Bucks.

Teague Time: It would be nice to see Marquis get these type of minutes more often. With Rose and now Hinrich out, I would ask the question what’s to lose? Nate Robinson isn’t going to help the team much in the future. Robinson only got a one-year deal. The Bulls can keep Marquis on his rookie deal until 2015-16.

Omer Asik didn’t look like much when he came into the league. But he grew to be one of Thibodeau’s most trusted players. Asik and Gibson closed games, including big playoffs matchups, over Noah and Boozer. When Rose is back, Teague probably won’t be closing any games, but this confidence can only help him grow.

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