8:00 PM ET, January 7, 2014
United Center, Chicago, IL
The red-hot Phoenix Suns aren't showing any signs of cooling off.
Putting points on the board in Chicago might be easier than originally expected with the Bulls no longer having the man who was arguably their best defender.
As the high-scoring Suns try to keep rolling Tuesday night, the defensive-minded Bulls play their first game since trading away Luol Deng.
An All-Star the past two seasons and a former All-Defensive team member, Deng was dealt to Cleveland late Monday night for Andrew Bynum and three future draft picks. Bynum is not expected to remain with the Bulls as they look toward the future following Derrick Rose's latest season-ending injury, and Deng apparently wasn't part of their plans as he was set to become a free agent after the season.
"The moves made today will put us in a better position to make the entire roster stronger for the future and to compete for a championship," general manager Gar Forman said.
For now, though, the rest of the Bulls are surely disappointed to lose a veteran leader who was averaging a team-high 19.0 points. Forwards Mike Dunleavy and Taj Gibson are likely to see their minutes increase in Deng's absence.
Not having Deng at the offensive end will surely make it tough for Chicago to keep up with a Phoenix team averaging 107.0 points during an 11-3 stretch.
"We need everybody to play well for us to win," coach Jeff Hornacek said. "We don't have that guy we can go to and just say 'carry us' tonight. We're always a team effort."
Green, who was making his second consecutive start in place of the injured Eric Bledsoe (sprained knee), has posted at least 21 points in four of the last seven games. The Suns have won eight straight when Green scores in double figures. He's made 30 3-pointers over the past eight games.
"I never had anyone like Hornacek," Green told the NBA's official website. "He's given me that confidence."
The Suns now look for their momentum to carry over as they open a season-high five-game trip. Phoenix has taken four of five away from home.
"We have to bring everything: scarves, gloves, hats," said Goran Dragic, averaging a team-leading 18.8 points.
Aside from the cold, Phoenix will have to deal with a stingy Bulls team. Chicago (14-18), allowing 92.2 points per game to rank second in the league, has surrendered an even more impressive 87.0 in winning five of seven.
"We have a core of guys that understand it and are really good at it," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We know if we defend and rebound and keep our turnovers down, we're going to be in a position to win. Right now, when you're short-handed, that's really what you have to do. It's also what you have to do in every game, even when you're completely healthy."
Chicago has held its last two opponents below 40.0 percent from the field and now seeks a third consecutive victory after beating Atlanta 91-84 on Saturday. Dunleavy led six Bulls with 20 points off the bench.
Carlos Boozer is uncertain to be available after missing his first game of the season due to a sore right knee. Boozer is averaging 20.7 points and 12.9 rebounds in his last seven games against the Suns.
Aside from Green, the Bulls will need to be wary of Dragic, averaging 23.8 points and shooting 54.7 percent over the last four games.
"He's a little bit of a Steve Nash and a little bit of a Manu Ginobili," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "His relentless attack in transition, getting to the basket, just knowing how to draw fouls. He has really blossomed into a great point guard."
The Bulls had taken seven of eight from Phoenix before losing the last matchup 97-81 last Jan. 12 at the United Center. Chicago is 2-8 against the Western Conference this season.
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In addition to holding their own selection in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Bulls obtained a 2014 top-12 protected pick from the Kings in last night's Luol Deng trade (the Cavaliers owned the Kings pick from a prior deal). The likelihood of Chicago receiving that pick in 2014, however, isn't very high as Sacramento currently holds the 4th-worst record in the league. Perhaps more likely - the Bulls could receive the Bobcats 2014 first-round selection stemming from a deal which involved Chicago sending Tyrus Thomas to Charlotte back in 2010. That pick is only top-10 protected and Charlotte is currently in 7th place in the Eastern Conference.[+]
Bulls Potential 1st-Round Picks - 2014 NBA Draft
Trading Luol Deng to the Cleveland is going to save Chicago a significant amount of money in 2 forms --- the Bulls will not have to pay Deng the remainder of his $14.3M salary this season and it takes them under the dreaded luxury tax line. But the Bulls still have a move or two to make in order to free up enough money to have some flexibility in free agency this upcoming offseason. As it stands, they have $64.1M in guaranteed contracts on the books for the 2014-15 season, which is slightly over the projected salary cap line of $62.9M. That next move could be using the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer this offseason. He's set to make $16.8M in the final season of his contract in 2014-15 and by using the clause the Bulls could reduce the amount on their books from $64.1M to $47.3M. Chicago would still have to pay Boozer a significant portion of that $16.8M (amount varies based on what his next contract would be), but ultimately a large portion of Chicago's savings this season could be spent next season on the ramifications of using the amnesty clause on Boozer.[+]
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