Suns-Bulls Preview

The Associated Press

With help from a stingy defense, the Chicago Bulls are off to their best start at home in 15 seasons. They might have trouble adding to that success if a sprained toe continues to bother Derrick Rose.

After being scratched from the previous game, the reigning MVP's status is unknown for Tuesday night's visit from the struggling Phoenix Suns.

Chicago (12-3) is 5-0 at home for the first time since winning its first seven games there during the 1996-97 season, the fifth of its sixth title-winning campaigns in the decade.

Rose, though, has been plagued by injury lately and sat out for the second time in four games Monday in Memphis.

The Bulls managed to beat lowly Washington 78-64 on Wednesday without him but ended a five-game win streak with a 102-86 loss to the Grizzlies. They cut a 27-point deficit to nine early in the fourth quarter but could get no closer against a team they beat 104-64 on Jan. 1 with a healthy Rose.

Luol Deng had a team-best 20 points Monday for Chicago and C.J. Watson added 17 in his return from a sprained left elbow. John Lucas III, who scored a career-high 25 points while starting in Rose's place Wednesday, was held to eight on 3-of-9 shooting.

"We should have known that anytime you beat a team like that in the NBA, next time, they can't wait to see you," Deng said. "We should have been more prepared."

The Bulls will try to bounce back by holding their sixth straight visiting opponent to less than 75 points. Chicago has given up a league-low average of 66.8 points on its own floor.

The visitors to the United Center this season are also shooting 34.1 percent, and that's helped the Bulls overcome their 40.5 percent shooting at home. If Rose can play, Chicago might have a chance to improve that mark and its average of 85.4 points on its own floor.

That's because the Bulls will face a Suns team that's given up at least 99 points in each of its four consecutive defeats, and the return of Steve Nash and Grant Hill from injury couldn't help Phoenix on Sunday.

The Suns (4-8) allowed an opponent to top the century mark for the third straight contest, falling 102-91 at San Antonio. Marcin Gortat had season highs of 24 points and 15 rebounds for Phoenix, which couldn't complete a rally from an early 19-point deficit.

Nash, who missed a 110-103 home loss to New Jersey on Friday with a bruised right thigh, finished with 20 points and 10 assists against the Spurs. Hill had four points after sitting out Friday with a strained leg tendon.

"We're not playing to our fullest potential, but we're certainly playing hard. There's never any quit," Hill said.

The Suns will try to keep playing hard while avoiding their first five-game losing streak since dropping six in a row March 3-12, 2009, and a fifth straight road defeat.

They've dropped five of six to Chicago, but the past three matchups have been decided by a combined 17 points, including a 97-94 win for the Bulls at the United Center on April 5.

Rose - who scored a team-best 19 points in that game - has averaged 25.5 points in six career matchups with Phoenix, his best against any opponent.

With their 16th game, the Bulls will have played more than any other team over the first 24 days of the season.

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