Suns-Bulls Preview


(AP) - Having the best road record in the NBA helped the Chicago Bulls finish atop the Eastern Conference last season.

How they'll do away from home this season minus Derrick Rose remains to be seen.

The Bulls will double the number of road games they've played with a matchup against the improving Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night to open a five-game trip.

Chicago (4-3) did dominate its lone road game, but that 115-86 victory was against lowly Cleveland and came back on Nov. 2. The Bulls have since alternated wins and losses.

"We're going to get better," center Joakim Noah told the team's official website after Monday's 101-95 loss to Boston. "We've just got to keep fighting and not point fingers, stay together as a group."

Spending two weeks on the road may be a good time for that to happen. This five-game trek doesn't end until Nov. 24 in Milwaukee.

The Bulls were 24-9 on the road during the 2011-12 regular season but had a 6-7 mark, including playoffs, when Rose didn't play. The superstar point guard remains sidelined by a torn ACL suffered in the postseason.

Rose's replacement is Kirk Hinrich, but his status for this game is uncertain after sitting out Monday with a strained right hip. He was struggling anyway, shooting 31.0 percent over his last four games while averaging 4.5 assists.

Fellow offseason acquisition Nate Robinson took over the starting role Monday and had 11 points with seven assists.

Whoever plays the point for Chicago may have a tough matchup with Goran Dragic, the only Phoenix player to score in double figures in every game. He had 21 points and hit 4 of 5 from 3-point range in a 110-100 win over Denver on Monday.

Sixth man Shannon Brown added 19 points as seven players scored in double figures for the new-look Suns (4-4). They've won three of four, with Brown scoring at least 19 in each victory and only four in the loss.

"I just think everybody is getting a little more familiar with each other," coach Alvin Gentry said. "That's big. ... The idea of just knowing the guy a little bit better beside you."

No Western Conference team is turning the ball over less than the Suns (13.1 per game) after they committed six Monday.

Chicago has forced only 19 turnovers over the last two games and gave up 100 points for the first time this season Monday.

The Bulls' usually good defense and rebounding - they've lost the battle on the glass only once this season - can be greatly attributed to Noah. He's averaging a career-high 15.3 points and 9.4 rebounds but could get a challenge from Marcin Gortat, who has five double-doubles in his last seven games.

Chicago's Luol Deng has averaged 23.0 points over his last four games. The former first-round pick of the Suns has averaged 23.6 points and 9.4 rebounds in his last five visits to Phoenix.

The Bulls have won three in a row and six of seven against the Suns, including three straight in Phoenix.

Copyright 2012 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited