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Four keys for Bulls vs. Suns

Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich has courtside conference with coach Tom Thibodeau fourth quarter Chicago Bulls 97-91 loss OklahomCity Thunder Thursday

Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich has a courtside conference with coach Tom Thibodeau in the fourth quarter of the Chicago Bulls 97-91 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder Thursday November 8, 2012 at the United Center in Chicago. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 14, 2012 6:12PM



PHOENIX – Kirk Hinrich and his strained right hip are a “game-time decision,’’ according to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau on Wednesday. Rip Hamilton is on a minutes watch to make sure the shooting guard doesn’t have to be a “game-time decision’’ on a nightly basis. And the Bulls are coming off a 101-95 loss to Boston.

Welcome to the annual “Circus Trip,’’ where if it can go wrong, it mostly has in the past.

Obstacle No. 1 in the five-game, 11-day trip away from the Madhouse on Madison is in Phoenix against a Suns team that can score. With the 98.1 points per game [11th in the NBA] that Phoenix puts up every game, however, there’s also the flip side to it – they allow 103 points per game. Considering the Bulls are starving for an offensive breakout, this could be a good first stop.

Here’s what the Bulls would like to get done tonight against the Suns:

1. Making a point – Hinrich participated in practice on Tuesday – just not in full – and was on the court for the start of the Wednesday shoot-around, working on his jumper. He’ll give it a go unless there’s a setback in warm-ups. But it’s not about Hinrich, as much as the overall point-guard play. It will be a committee again tonight, with Nate Robinson and even rookie Marquis Teague being ready for duty. What Thibodeau has shown this season is the hot hand or better defender stays on the court. What Hinrich, Robinson or Teague has to show is they can run the team and limit turnovers, especially against an offensive-minded team like the Suns.

2. Fourth-quarter knockout – The Bulls are still trying to figure out a way to finish teams, as well as figure out who should even be on the floor in the final minutes of games to finish teams. It would be nice to see them get a lead, extend that lead, and never look back. They’ve had one game like that so far this season, beating Cleveland in the second game of the season.

3. Look for Booz – As much as Bulls fans hate the idea of Carlos Boozer being a necessity for this team to succeed, it’s true. And the last week has not been kind to Boozer, who has struggled offensively, and has been a turnstile on defense. When Boozer has his swag going, yelling, “Gimme me that [bleep]!’’ as he’s ripping down boards, the Bulls are usually at their best. They need to find that again, and quickly.



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