Preview: Suns vs. Bulls, 8 p.m., FOX Sports Arizona
Two teams looking for improved health — one physical, one mental — hook up Friday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena when the Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns clash.
The Bulls will be playing their fifth game on a six-city road trip and are coming off a 123-92 shellacking by the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night. But they had an excuse: All-Star Jimmy Butler (bruised right heel) and standout sidekick Dwyane Wade (upper respiratory illness) were both sidelined.
The absence was the third in a row for Butler, but he participated fully in a scrimmage on Thursday and hopes to be back in the lineup in Phoenix.
“I felt all right — still a little bit of pain,” he reported to the media after the workout in Oakland. “I was able to move pretty well. Hopefully, I’ll be ready to go.”
The Bulls (26-27) have split the first four games on their six-city trip, winning once with Butler (at Oklahoma City) and once without him (at Sacramento).
Wade stayed behind at the hotel during Thursday’s scrimmage and remains a bit of a question mark for Friday’s game.
The undermanned Bulls hung on as long as they could against the Warriors by retrieving 15 of their 55 misses. Robin Lopez had seven offensive rebounds during a 17-point, 10-rebound effort, and Taj Gibson pulled three offensive boards on a 15-point, nine-rebound night.
The Suns, who head back on the road Saturday for a game at Houston, also are coming off a one-sided loss that ended ugly. Rookies Marquese Chriss and Tyler Ulis were ejected after a fourth-quarter scuffle in a 110-91 loss at Memphis.
The ejections were the third and fourth of the season for the Suns. No other team has had more than three players thrown out this season.
Temperatures rose in Memphis in part because the Suns couldn’t buy a hoop, shooting just 33.3 percent from the field. The 91-point output was their lowest since December.
Particularly cold in his club’s eighth loss in the last nine games was Eric Bledsoe, who was 3 of 15 from the field. Bledsoe, who has a 21.2-point scoring average, has totaled just 43 points in his last three outings, his worst three-game stretch since November.
“We were just missing looks we normally make,” Bledsoe observed to reporters afterward. “We weren’t playing with energy, especially our starters.”
The Suns have been surprisingly healthy this season, but they did receive a blow Wednesday when rookie Dragan Bender, the No. 4 pick of the 2016 draft, had to undergo surgery to remove a bone spur from his right ankle. It’s possible his season is over.
If there was a bright spot in the loss to Memphis, it was Devin Booker’s 20-point performance. It was his 17th in the last 18 games.
Booker, 20, became the youngest ever in the NBA with 16 straight 20-point games. The streak ended Monday at New Orleans.