The Chicago Bulls and the Phoenix Suns found themselves as opponents at the United Center Saturday night after both teams played in New York the night before. Looking to gain their second straight win, Chicago failed to do so by losing their endurance as they came away with a 81-97 loss.
To start off, the Bulls won the tip. Their first possession featured an aggressive Joakim Noah fighting up a shot in the paint to get the first points of the game. On the next possession, Noah failed to connect on two free throws, but afterwards, Richard Hamilton got himself going with a jump shot to put the Bulls up 4-1. But Kirk Hinrich soon picked up his second foul, and Nate Robinson was sent in for some early minutes.
Once Robinson checked in, Phoenix’s Goran Dragic made a right-wing three to tie the game. From then on, the game remained relatively close. Hamilton got himself going finishing with 8 points, 2 assists, and 1 rebound in the first quarter. The Bulls closed out the first ahead of the Suns slightly with a 21-20 lead.
In the second quarter, the Suns quickly got out ahead by a point. But on Phoenix’s next possession, Wes Johnson dribbled the ball off his leg giving Chicago the ball. Nazr Mohammed then attempted a shot at point-blank range and missed, but Luol Deng was there to get the putback. After playing some defense, Nate Robinson brought up the ball and passed it to Belinelli. Belinelli faked a three, took a dribble in, and drained a right-wing jumper. This gave the Bulls a one-point lead, but it was the last lead they would have in the entire game.
Tom Thibodeau tried using a lineup consisting of Robinson, Belinelli, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, and Mohammed, but it did not last too long. The starters came back in, but Phoenix’s bench continued to thrive. Michael Beasley was a major help in extending the lead for the Suns. At halftime, the Bulls trailed the Suns 42-49. Beasley had 14 of 21 Phoenix bench points while Chicago’s bench had only contributed 10 points.
The second half began with a turnover for Chicago, but they came up with a layup by Deng on their next try. Following that layup, the Bulls forced a shot clock violation against Phoenix. However, on the offensive end, Hamilton tried running off a screen out on the perimeter of the right-wing, but was hit in the chest and took a fall. He did not get up forcing the Bulls to call a timeout. At this time, Chicago was down only six points with 10:05 remaining in the third quarter. Coming out of the timeout, Hamilton seemed to be okay as he went back out on the court to play.
A play that seemed to get the Bulls going a bit was when Hinrich drove, dished it to Noah, who finished with a two-handed slam. Hamilton then got a layup and a jumper with Hinrich’s assist. Boozer got going a bit as well as he finished with a reverse layup followed by a putback off Hamilton’s missed right baseline jumper. At that point, the Bulls were down 56-68, but after, both teams seemed to go on a bit of a slump. Both teams eventually rediscovered their offense, yet the score was not any better; Chicago still trailed Phoenix 63-77.
There was a bit of hope when the fourth quarter went under way. Gibson came out with a block that lead to a missed layup by Deng, but Butler was there to fly in for the tip dunk. The crowd went wild, and there was a possibility of some light at the end of the tunnel. Phoenix came back with two buckets, the latter being a three by Sebastian Telfair. The Bulls got their first three of the night a few possessions after Telfair’s three when Nate Robinson scored from downtown on the left-wing. It did not matter though. There was not anything left to do. It would be too much work for Chicago to get back ahead. They were just off.
Thibodeau eventually sent out Marquis Teague, Daequan Cook, Butler, Vladimir Radmanovic, and Mohammed to finish out the game. Joakim Noah (10 points, 13 rebounds) and Carlos Boozer (15 points, 10 rebounds) each finished with double-doubles. Phoenix’s Luis Scola had 22 points while his team out-rebounded Chicago 46-42.
With this loss, Chicago is now 20-15 and still trail Indiana for the top of the Central Division. The Bulls look to overcome this loss on Monday, January 14 as former Bull Kyle Korver and the Atlanta Hawks stop by the United Center.