Suns vs. Bulls Preview: Phoenix Will Make Struggling Chicago Defense Pay

Action Network senior NBA writer Matt Moore previews Suns-Bulls on Monday night, with Chicago coming off a loss to Philly on Sunday night.

Suns vs. Bulls Odds

Suns Odds -7.5
Bulls Odds +7.5
Over/Under 228.5
Time 8 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The feisty, short-handed Chicago Bulls take on the best team in the NBA on Monday night, the Phoenix Suns.

DeMar DeRozan went big minutes and put up big points vs. the 76ers on Sunday but it wasn’t enough. On a back-to-back without Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, will the Bulls have enough fight to hold off the defending West champs? Or will CP3 and company kickstart another winning streak?

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Suns Have a Variety of Advantages Over Bulls

The Suns are without backup guard Cameron Payne and shooter Landry Shamet (who they’ve also dangled in trade talks, according to multiple sources). They’re also down Frank Kaminsky, Dario Saric and Abdel Nader.

Phoenix responded to Atlanta snapping its 11-game winning streak with a win against the Wizards over the weekend. On the season, the Suns have been the most complete team in the league — the only one in the league with a top-five adjusted offensive and defensive rating at

Against the Bulls, the Suns enjoy a variety of advantages. For starters, with Chicago shorthanded, Nikola Vucevic has to play more minutes. Vucevic is averaging 37 minutes in February, up from under 34 minutes the rest of the season.

When Vucevic is on the floor, Chicago plays its standard drop coverage against pick and rolls. With Ball and Caruso, they have the on-ball and wing defenders to make this work with disruptive hands and pesky defense. But without them, the Bulls get torched and Vucevic has to give up mid-range jumpers galore.

Since Jan. 1, the Bulls give up the seventh-most mid-range field goal attempts per game. Those are normally low percentage shots, but not so vs. Devin Booker and Chris Paul. Those two will feast against it, especially with the Bulls on a back to back.

On defense, the Suns vary their coverages between drop and switches. The Suns will switch against DeRozan to keep him out of the midrange, where he feasted against the Sixers’ drop coverage, and then drop vs. the bench guards Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu.

Neither of these teams is perimeter-oriented. Both teams are bottom-10 in 3-point makes per 100 possessions. The Bulls actually shoot better from 3 than Phoenix. But Chicago has given up the fifth-most 3’s made per 100 possessions over their last 10 games thanks to their injuries. Jae Crowder and Cam Johnson should be able to get up open looks against this compromised Bulls defense.

Bulls Defense Falling Apart

Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso are both out, still, as is Derrick Jones Jr. Coby White is considered day-to-day.

Zach LaVine sat Sunday but should be back in the lineup for this one. The question is whether the Bulls will have anything left after a grueling, starter-heavy performance in a loss to the Sixers on Sunday.

Chicago’s defense has fallen off a cliff in recent weeks, ranking 26th over the past 14 days per That of course is a problem vs. the buzzsaw that is the Phoenix Suns.

A key in this game will be the bench play. Dosunumu has given Chicago a huge boost in recent weeks. The Bulls are 6-4 in their last 10 and 31-19 for the season against the spread in the second quarter, while Phoenix is 25-15 ATS in the second quarter but just 2-8 in their last 10.

Phoenix staggers Chris Paul and Devin Booker with the bench which is a luxury the Bulls can’t afford with their injuries, but LaVine’s return should help.

Suns-Bulls Pick

Ultimately, the Bulls’ defense is why I lean towards the Suns and the over. On a back to back, sometimes it affects shooters’ legs but more often it makes teams more susceptible to lazy basketball that leads to easy scores vs. disciplined teams like the Suns.

Phoenix’s team total should come out around 117. I like the over there. Chicago has given up 115 or more in each of the last five games, and now they’re on a back to back vs. a well-oiled machine in the Suns.

I lean slightly to the over but prefer the Suns’ team total of 117.

As for the side, full season I make this game exactly Suns -6 on the dot. I think the Bulls injuries matter more than the Suns and the back-to-back spot along with DeRozan’s heavy minutes Sunday push further in Phoenix’s direction.

Pick: Suns -6 or better, Suns team total over 117