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Phoenix Suns embark on important five-game road trip

PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns’ next two opponents have win totals that rival the temperature in their respective cities.

“We can handle it,” Goran Dragic said.

Wait, the weather or the competition?

The 14-win Chicago Bulls are up first on Tuesday. The 16-win Minnesota Timberwolves follow the very next night to start what will be a season-long five-game, seven-day road trip that sends the Suns straight into the heart of the cold front that is crippling much of the nation.

“The cold is terrible,” Gerald Green said, before adding about the week ahead, “Everybody understands, I think, this is an important trip for us. This can be good for us to go ahead and kind of solidify us on one of our really first road trips of 2014, and hopefully we can leave it above .500 (for the trip).”

As one of the better teams in the NBA, the Suns (20-12) are also one of its better road teams.

With eight victories in 15 games away from US Airways Center, the Suns are one of only eight teams in the league with a winning road record.

“We know how tough it is on the road,” P.J. Tucker said.

The Bulls, who have once again lost star guard Derrick Rose to a season-ending knee injury, have struggled, especially offensively. They rank last in the league in scoring (91.3 points per game) and second-to-last in shooting (42.2 percent).

However, the Bulls have played better recently. They have won two straight and five of seven overall.

“If we get in a half court game with them, we’ll probably lose. It’s as simple as that,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “We’ve got to push the ball.”

And there is no team better at that than the Suns, who lead the league in fastbreak points (19.5) and have even increased their pace in the past three games to more than 23 fastbreak points per game (23.3).

The trip will also see the Suns make stops in Memphis (15-18), Detroit (14-20) and New York (11-22); so five teams that are a combined 25 games under .500.

The visit to Memphis on Thursday though should provide extra motivation for the Suns, who have dropped the first two meetings against the Grizzlies.

“I didn’t even know Memphis was coming back up (on the schedule), honestly,” Tucker said. “I know we’ve got Chicago and Minnesota. But after that then I can figure out who’s next. You can’t overlook these teams. These are two great teams. They’re going to be tough games.”