Chicago Bulls 118, Phoenix Suns 97 -- Defensive indifference


Marcin Gortat could not have been pleased with the Suns' defensive effort. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Marcin Gortat could not have been pleased with the Suns' defensive effort. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The Phoenix Suns shot better than 50 percent, stayed close on the boards and received a superstar offensive performance from Steve Nash yet the Chicago Bulls still found a way to wallop them even with their All-Star point guard in street clothes.

The Suns managed to score 30 more points than the Bulls were allowing on their home floor, yet the defense broke down in their 118-97 loss, Phoenix’s fifth consecutive defeat.

Even without Derrick Rose, the Bulls throttled the Suns’ defense to the tune of a 126.9 efficiency and that’s counting a fourth quarter of garbage time. For the season previously with Rose missing just two games the Bulls scored 101.8 per 100.

During their five-game losing streak, the Suns’ defense has suddenly reverted to old form, yielding offensive ratings of 120.9, 111.2, 108.6 and 104.1 before this horrific 126.9. By comparison, Orlando’s league-leading offense entered the day with an efficiency of 107.1.

The Phoenix defense’s stay in the top 10 was all too short, as it entered the day ranked tied for 21st before continuing to free fall Tuesday night in the United Center.

“The big difference was we just didn’t slow them down,” said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. “We are not the Phoenix Suns of old. We need to slow down and guard them more closely. We just need to play closer to players like Boozer. We just can’t go out and say on their jump shots ‘make them and beat us.’ We need to defend better, we need to be more physical especially on our rebounding. We also need to communicate better on our defensive rotations.”

Carlos Boozer was the main perpetrator on this night as he got hot from the perimeter and torched the Suns for a season-high 31 points on 14-for-21 shooting, including 26 in the first half alone. C.J. Watson was superb in relief of Rose by contributing 23 on 8-of-12 shooting and all the Chicago starters scored in double digits.

On the bright side the Suns’ offense was actually quite good as well in the early going, scoring 31 points in the first quarter alone, which is about half of what the Bulls had been given up during home games all game … yet they still found themselves trailing by eight due to the porous defensive effort.

Their offense slowed a bit in the second quarter but the Bulls kept right on clicking and the Suns were buried from there.

“We just played catch up all night,” said Gentry, whose team still managed to score 23 more points than any other United Center visitor despite 19 turnovers. “That is really tough to do against a good team like this. They just had control of the game from halftime on.”

Nash played about as good an offensive game as a point guard can, exploding for 25 points on 10-for-13 shooting while dishing nine assists in 30 minutes of play before sitting out the fourth. However, he did turn the ball over five times and somehow left with a team-worst -26.

Aside from Nash, the Suns received superlative performances from their centers, and that’s about it. Marcin Gortat and Robin Lopez split the center spot’s 48 minutes and produced 30 points and 21 rebounds, including all but 17 of Phoenix’s total rebounds (no other player grabbed more than four), with Gortat going for 14 and 15 and Lopez 16 and six on 6-for-7 shooting in 17 active minutes.

Nash and Gortat playing excellent ball without getting much help has become the story of the losing streak, but Lopez scored more than five points for the first time since the season’s opening week in his best game of the season since the opener.

Ronnie Price fed him an early layup, and from there his activity level was off the charts. During one fourth quarter sequence he blocked a Taj Gibson shot and then ran down to nail an open jumper of his own as the trail guy, and another time he darted through the lane to tip in a teammate’s miss as he so seldom did last season. Lopez was a true difference maker during both of his stints on the floor tonight.

Usually a Suns loss in Chicago would be chalked up to nothing other than the Bulls’ elite status, but a confluence of circumstances seemed to give Phoenix a chance.

Most importantly, the Bulls ran without the reigning MVP of the league, and they were playing on consecutive days after getting routed by Memphis the day before without Rose while the Suns enjoyed a day off in Chicago. Yet the Bulls played like the well-rested team.

“For a team missing their best player and a team that played yesterday they sure came out with a lot of energy,” Grant Hill said. “They played harder than us. They played like the team in the Eastern Conference with the best record. We didn’t come out with that same intensity level. If you’re not going to play that hard, you’re going to get embarrassed like we did tonight.”

If Elston Turner cannot fix what’s ailed the Suns’ defense during their now five-game losing streak, there could be many more embarrassing nights ahead of them.

And 1

  • Steve Nash earned votes in a wide variety of categories in the annual NBA GM survey that came out today. He was voted the player with the best basketball IQ and also ranked second for best passer behind Chris Paul and for best international player behind Dirk Nowitzki (although the German won in a landslide). He ranked third for does the most with the least (Jared Dudley also got votes) and tied for third for best leader. Nash and Hill tied for fourth for active player that will make the best head coach as well. Markieff Morris was the only other Sun to receive a vote, ranking fifth for Rookie of the Year.
  • Former Sun Zabian Dowdell failed his medical tests and thus his contract to play for Turkish powerhouse Anadolu Efes Istanbul has been voided, according to Sportando. This is just another piece of misfortune for Dowdell, the Suns’ former backup point guard, who has experienced more than his share of tough luck in his professional basketball career.

  • steve

    @BoomShakaLuka

    You can’t just make up definitions because you think no one will care to check.

    Merriam-Webster seems to agree with me. “Exaggerating or disposed to exaggerate one’s own worth or importance often by an overbearing manner.” I said, “Arrogant means (roughly) exaggerating your own worth.” You said, ”
    overbearingly assume to make yourself seem more knowledgeable then you are.” And I know you didn’t copy and paste that definition from a dictionary because you misspelled “than.”

    Seriously, what are you even trying to argue about? I gave an adequate definition. If you want to argue that I’m trying to make myself seem more important than I really am, go ahead and try to do so without pointing a finger back at yourself.

    “Realize that the only reason the Suns had the success they did was because of the Colangelos.”

    If you’re going start your argument by blasting my accurate definition of a word and then follow it with a statement like this, everyone already knows you don’t really want to come here to reason. You’re just picking a fight. Since it’s the intarwebz, I’ll bite.

    Just answer me a question… how many terrible years did the Suns have with a Colangelo as an owner or a GM? FYI, the Suns had 27 wins with that ENTIRE team we all loved so much (minus Nash, who Sarver signed after Jerry Colangelo took steps toward recruiting him). Plus, with all of the roster overhaul that took place, by the time Sarver made his third trip to the WCF, the only two players who were still inherited from the Colangelos (as you would say it, not me), were Amare and Nash, who were coincidentally the ONLY two guys Sarver (again, it’s not really him, but it’s actually his GM, I’m just humoring you for that sake of it and pretending the owner of a sports franchise cares about this stuff) thought were worthwhile to extend… So, no credit whatsoever? Three entirely different WCF teams were built around two players. Do you think TWO players can do that on their own, or do you think there was possibly some skill and basketball knowledge in place to put the rest of the pieces together?

    An owner doesn’t sell the picks. An owner doesn’t dump players. An owner may or may not run his executives out, but if you have some inside information, feel free to share it (FYI, I blamed Sarver for this in the last Sarver rant thread with the added caveat that none of us are really privy to the happenings of the franchise at that level).

    I have to realize he was handed a dynasty? The Suns were a 27-win team. Tell me how that’s a dynasty.

    Saying the Suns could have won a few titles by now is pure fanboy conjecture. Fact is that they didn’t. It’s impossible to argue with that statement because ANYTHING could have happened, but it’s also pointless to argue with you for that very same reason. What happened happened. Get over it.

    Your best argument is made here: “It’s the fact that Sarver admitted that he didn’t feel it was worthwhile to go after a superstar.” My only problems with it though are that I never remember hearing anything like that, and tell me what “superstar” you would have gone out to get… There wasn’t a superstar outside of Wade, James, Bosh, Amare, and Dirk from what I can remember, and I wouldn’t even call Bosh or Amare “superstars.” They’re just stars.

    And as far as the pay cuts go… I can partially agree with you here, but who hasn’t taken a pay cut in the past few years? Also, is a pay cut from $2M to $1.8M really that big of a deal to someone like Kerr (I don’t know the numbers, I’m juts throwing something random out there). What I’m trying to say is that it’s likely Kerr didn’t leave because of the pay cut. He doesn’t need the money. Could it be that Kerr was running from the coming storm (Amare not coming back, Nash and Hill aging, no superstars available on the horizon, a terrible draft class) and didn’t want to stain his reputation as a GM? Is it possible that Steve Kerr actually wanted to spend more time with family (his stated reason for leaving)? That last bit is your best argument, but even still, it’s just a lot of guesswork.

    Let’s just say the Suns turn it around and start winning again in two years with Sarver as the owner, all you people who are harping that “this is coming from the top,” are you going to be harping that same thing in two years? We all know you’re not.

    I don’t blame an owner for the losses, and I don’t credit an owner for the wins. There are people on the court and who actually do the recruiting that have a lot more to say about that sort of thing.

  • steve

    @shazam

    I already knew you would do this because nothing you say can be taken seriously (you said so yourself about five articles ago) and you’re only speaking in jest to keep up your sad spirits, but you’re a flat out liar. You asked me to list a few things I thought Sarver was wrong on and you’d consider it proof I’m not in Sarver’s pocket. Not that it matters, but I did submit that proof, and here you are, accusing me of being employed by a man worth $400 million dollars to help save his reputation in the eyes of a few nerdy internet dweebs. The fact that you would even think it’s possible for an owner of a franchise to think that effort would be worthwhile is absolutely pathetic on your part.

    Even if some people were employed to be apologists on the front office’s behalf, I GUARANTEE it wouldn’t be Sarver who would hire those people, and that proves how insane you haters are.

    I don’t like Sarver. I repeat, I don’t like Sarver. I just dislike the idiot fans who think it’s worthwhile to bash him and bash the leadership of the franchise and boycott the team.

  • Grover

    Shazam – Suns may not have had a dynasty, but they clearly had the makings of one. ’04/’05 (or was Nash’s return the following season), the Suns had young superstars in training matches up with the best PG playing, plus a stockpile of draft picks. Add to that the first exciting offense the NBA had seen in over a decade and I don’t thu k there was a GM in the league that wouldn’t have traded positions.

    There are some really good arguments for which moves and non-moves are responsible for the downfall, but clearly management/ownership did not do a good job. Imagine what you’d think of OK City if 5 years from now they were fighting to not be a bottom dweller. You’d think (and be correct) that they did a rotten job managing what appears now to be a powerhouse for years to come.

    All that said, nothing we can do about it now. Maybe pages of angry forum posts and name calling will make it all better?

  • Grover

    Shazam – by the way, my last sentence was not directed at you by any means. Ive just grown tired of where this board is going – long diatribes of immature name calling and bitching. My memory is you’ve been one of the sane ones – didint mean to throw my comment in a response to your post.

  • shazam

    totally agree with the “makings” of one grover…ive posted before that losing joe johnson put an end to that era…we really had a shot with him

  • BoomShakaLuka

    @ Steve the Troll

    Go crawl back under the bridge you came from.

  • steve

    Never trolled. I’m never the one to bring up this pointless debate. By the way, thanks for confirming that you didn’t want to be reasonable about this. Have a nice night.

  • BoomShakaLuka

    @Steve

    Hard to be reasonable with someone who denies the obvious and wants to pick a fight with everyone else here. I guess trolls just aren’t used to the sunlight.

    Your credibility went out the window when you actually called Hakim Warrick “fantastic” on the offensive end.

  • steve

    @Boom

    You’re getting further and further away from addressing any real point. Any interest in talking basketball?