PHOENIX – These aren’t the lumbering Indiana Pacers. They’re not a Charlotte Bobcats team that slows it down because, as far as talent goes, they don’t have a choice whether or not to race it up and down.
It’s the Chicago Bulls, and the Chicago Bulls are going to do what what Tom Thibodeau always does. And they’re especially going to do it coming off a gut-check loss against the Sacramento Kings.
Against the Phoenix Suns, what they do just works.
The Suns dropped their second game of the year to the Bulls by a 101-92 score in a game that felt quite familiar to a 92-87 loss in Chicago just after Phoenix lost Eric Bledsoe to a knee injury.
It was ugly like Thibs likes it.
Chicago ended a hot streak for Suns guard Goran Dragic, and though he got his in the second half, he had no reinforcements to turn it into Phoenix’s sixth win in a row. Dragic scored 20 of his 24 in the second half, Channing Frye ended with 18 on 6-of-16 shooting, and nothing else other than Leandro Barbosa’s one move — driving to the hoop — had anything that could be called success.
Gerald Green scored five points on just 2-of-12 shooting, P.J. Tucker went 2-of-6, and Markieff Morris hit just 4-of-13 shots while turning the ball over five times.
As a team, Phoenix recorded 21 turnovers on on the night. They also fought frustration that revealed itself as three technical fouls and plenty of animated reactions to foul calls.
With a large group of Chicago fans in attendance, it almost felt like a neutral college basketball court.
The Suns recorded 13 first-half turnovers and were shooting just 30 percent from the floor. That, combined with an abysmal shooting night, led to a 44-33 halftime deficit, but while the Bulls deserved some amount of credit as usual, Phoenix also shot itself in the foot time and time again. There were throw-aways, two travels on catch-and-dribble moves by Gerald Green and poor awareness.
If the Suns were open, their teammates would miss them. When their teammates made the right decisions on drive-and-kick plays, the shooters didn’t have their feet set. Often times, it simply came down to poor shot selection playing into the hands of Chicago contesting most of Phoenix’s shot attempts.
The Suns turned the tempo back into their favor quite quickly in the third. A 13-6 run in the first three minutes brought the deficit to four.
Do the Bulls come out with urgency?
Chicago seems destined to make a statement after flopping a night earlier at Sacramento. The first two of Goran Dragic’s shot attempts drew air, the Bulls seemed set on relentlessly driving to the basket, and Mike Dunleavy also slid in front of both Miles Plumlee and Dragic to draw charges early on as Chicago took a 17-6 lead early.
It was exactly what a perturbed Tom Thibodeau said he wanted from his team in the pregame media session.
While the Chicago media contingent only wanted to talk about Joakim Noah’s $15,000 fine earned from going Half-Baked on the referees from the 99-70 loss to the Kings – they also drew a “really?” from Thibs by asking him about DeMarcus Cousins talking down to Dunleavy afterward – Thibodeau kept it to basketball. The Bulls were doing the same.
Is it possible for Joakim Noah to be contained for two straight nights?
Noah appeared a bit more calm after learning of the $15,000 fine levied against him just before the game began, but he was no less of a terror on the court. He finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds, and was just one of many problems for the Suns, who struggled finishing around the hoop and on the perimeter.
Noah’s isolation hook shot off the glass with the shotclock winding down late in the fourth quarter just about said it all for the Suns on Tuesday.
You knew the Bulls were good enough to contain Dragic in the halfcourt, but it didn’t help he was one of few Suns willing to push the pace. Quickly after the Suns got down early on, Hornacek went to Markieff Morris and Leandro Barbosa to amp up the tempo, yet Morris decided to throw a halfcourt outlet to Channing Frye, who, as you might’ve guessed, wasn’t even looking to receive an outlet pass.
Dragic had four points on 1-for-6 shooting after the first half but obviously played a big part in making a few runs to get back into the game.