The Bulls have been teetering on the edge of a downward spiral in their last seven games, somehow squeaking out a record of 3-4 by holding on to victory against the Kings after Sacramento mounted a tremendous comeback, and besting the Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s going to be a tall task from here on out for the Bulls to maintain their composure and try to sneak into the playoffs, especially with their difficult upcoming schedule.
Tonight, the Bulls had a minor respite against a struggling Suns team, who had lost eight of their last nine games, and came in with a pitiful record of 16-37, the worst in the West. But all did not go according to plan, as the Bulls made things harder on themselves, losing 115-97 in Jimmy Butler’s first game back from a heel injury.
- The Bulls started off looking pretty good, getting contributions from Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic, building a 25-16 lead, but a 12-1 run by the Suns to end the quarter saw it quickly disappear. The Bulls had a similar meltdown at the end of the second quarter, surrendering a 17-4 run to go into halftime with a 13 point deficit, 56-43. They tried to close the gap to start the third quarter, beginning with a 9-2 run, but they could not sustain it, quickly down 13 again midway through the period and would never recover from there on out.
- On their fifth straight road game, the lethargy was showing. In the first half, Phoenix outscored the Bulls 11-2 on fast break points, weren’t able to bang down low resulting in a 30-12 margin, and relinquished 13 points off turnovers while amassing just eight themselves.
- It was clear the absence of play due to the heel injury was affecting Butler. He scored 20 points but was just 6-20 from the field. He was able to get to the line for eight points but could not connect from beyond the arc in three attempts, and posted just three rebounds.
- Robin Lopez had a very respectable game, with the only positive +/- on the team in 23 minutes of play. He was aggressive on offense, going five for nine with 12 points and securing five offensive boards to keep Bulls possessions alive. The Bulls couldn’t do much with those extra possessions, but RoLo did his part.
- Dwyane Wade came back from an illness that sidelined him against Golden State and although he didn’t have a very efficient game (7-16 from the field), his off the ball movement was on point, putting up 18 points with a few backdoor cuts resulting in dunks.
- Jerian Grant was awarded the starting point guard role, but didn’t score his first points until a three ball with four minutes remaining in the third quarter. It would be his only points for the game. As the backup point guard, Rajon Rondo continued to struggle with the worst +/- on the team with -17 in 23 minutes. He had just three points, four rebounds, and three assists.
- As a team, the Bulls shot just 43% for the game. This wasn’t helped by a continued struggle from three point range, connecting on just 5-19 for a paltry 26.3%. For the season, they’re still dead last in the league, at 31.5%. Fortunately, for the Bulls, they were going up against another struggling three point shooting team – the Suns are 25th in the league at 34.1%. Unfortunately, the Suns exceeded their season average by hitting eight threes, good for 42.1%.
- Devin Booker is really impressive on this Suns team. He’s a young star who we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the years to come. The backcourt of Booker and Eric Bledsoe combined for 50 points on 50% shooting with a +32, dominating the minutes sheet with 33 apiece.
- Up Next: The Bulls wrap up their six game road trip in Minnesota against Tom Thibodeau’s Timberwolves on Sunday. The Suns travel to Houston to play the Rockets on Saturday for a back-to-back.