Time: 7 p.m. MST
TV: FSAPHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns go into Tuesday night’s contest against the Chicago Bulls as the hottest team in basketball having won five straight games in the past 10 days. Guard Goran Dragic may be the hottest player outside of Kevin Durant averaging over 26 points in the last week and was rewarded with the Western Conference Player of the Week award.
For this hot streak to continue, the Suns will have to find a way to solve the Bulls and their stingy defense. Last month, the Suns fell 92-87 at Chicago in a game that Phoenix just did not play well in.
“For the most part we really didn’t execute well,” Hornacek said. “We missed easy shots, they’ll switch some and eliminate pick-and-rolls and push Goran (Dragic) to his weak side.
“We just have to take advantage, when they get us locked on the side, that we hit the roller and make them pay.”
The Bulls have been at or near the top of most defensive statistics since Tom Thibodeau took over as coach prior to the 2010-11 season. Hornacek does not think that there is a way to make them uncomfortable on defense.
“No, they have seen everything,” Hornacek said. “They are a good defensive team, solid, help each other out.
“We have to make sure we penetrate and make good decsions.”
The Bulls winning in Phoenix has turned into a trend in the past few years. A matter of fact, beating the Bulls at all has not happened much since the 2008-09 season. The Suns have won just two of the last 10 games against Chicago and have not beaten them in Phoenix since Nov. 15, 2007. Tonight would seem like the perfect opportunity to break the recent dry spell.
Here are the questions the Suns will need to ask themselves heading into Tuesday’s game.
Do the Bulls come out with urgency?
The Bulls are a prideful team. That was proven last year when an injury-depleted team won a Game 7 on the road in the first round and stole a game against the eventual champion Miami Heat in last year’s playoffs. They don’t get embarrassed too often and when they do they often bounce back. With their 29-point defeat to the Kings last night, I would expect the Bulls to come in ornery and with a quick start tonight. After beating the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, the Bulls have lost two in a row to the New Orleans Pelicans and Kings, and they have scored less than 80 points in each game. It is imperative that the Suns come out ready to go tonight.
Is it possible for Joakim Noah to be contained for two straight nights?
Prior to last night’s four rebound performance to the Sacramento Kings, a game he was ejected in the 3rd quarter, Noah had double-digit rebounds in 26 of 29 games. He is averaging over 11 points and 11 rebounds per game and is the heart and soul of the Bulls. Hornacek knows that his bigs are going to have their work cut out for them tonight.
“He gets after it. I love watching him play defensively,” Hornacek said. “He has a knack for the ball and he is tough to box out, but our guys are going to have to hit him and get to him early.”
The last time Noah was held with under 10 rebounds in two consecutive games was in late November. If Noah is contained on the boards it will go a long way, to a possible win tonight.
Dragic has been “en fuego” the past week and that earned him a Player of the Week award. Last week, he averaged 26.3 points per game on 9-13 three point shooting with six assists and four rebounds per game. If he remains on average with those numbers, the Suns will be in good shape Tuesday.