Phoenix 88, Chicago 77

CHICAGO, Jan. 27 (AP) -- Shots were flying in all directions.

They hit the rim, they hit the backboard. They seemingly hit everything but the bottom of the net until Leandro Barbosa got going early in the fourth quarter and buried the Bulls again.

Barbosa led the decisive run, Amare Stoudemire scored 24 points and the Phoenix Suns pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat Chicago 88-77 Sunday.

"I always like to be aggressive,'' said Barbosa, who scored 13. "I saw the space for me to go to the basket and I made the shot, so I was happy.''

Last season, he buried a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left to lift the Suns to a one-point win at the United Center. This time, he started a 12-0 run in the fourth with a baseline drive and two 3-pointers, sending the Suns to their sixth win in seven games. That allowed Phoenix to exhale after three difficult quarters and a trying week.

The Suns needed a last-second jumper by Shawn Marion to beat Cleveland on Friday after losing at Minnesota two nights earlier. Back spasms kept Grant Hill on the sideline against Chicago, and atrocious shooting made this game closer than it should have been.

The Suns won despite finishing with their second-lowest point total of the season and going 5-of-25 on 3-pointers - after hitting 17 against Cleveland.

Stoudemire hit 9 of 16 shots, while Marion added 15 points and 11 rebounds. But they got little help for most of the game.

Steve Nash finished with 14 points, even though he did not score until he hit a 3-pointer midway through the second quarter.

"We played hard,'' Stoudemire said. "It was a scrappy game. There are going to be a lot of loose balls, a lot of long rebounds. You've just got to have the heart to get those type of wins.''

Kirk Hinrich did all he could to keep the Bulls in the game, finishing with 31 points - the second time in less than a week he scored more than 30.

"I'm just trying to be aggressive,'' Hinrich said. "(I'm) trying to make a conscious effort to take the ball to the basket, trying to make plays.''

The Suns made just enough and finished 3-1 on this trip.

"It was a tough trip,'' Nash said. "We don't match up well with Minnesota. We had a tough win at Cleveland. It was a difficult game for us to play, early on a Sunday. Overall, we'll take it.''

Stoudemire said: "It's definitely a successful trip, even though we lost one. We'll take it. It's definitely a positive for us.''

The Suns held the Bulls to 34.7 percent shooting, and coach Mike D'Antoni believes his team deserves more credit for its defense.

"Nobody will give us credit,'' he said.

It's easy to overlook, considering the Pacific Division leaders came into the game averaging a league-high 110 points. They were facing a team that was 0-17 when allowing 100 or more, and Chicago was also shooting a league-low 42.3 percent.

Yet, the Bulls put up a fight even without Ben Gordon and Luol Deng, who sat out again because of injuries.

Thabo Sefolosha drove for a layup and deflected Stoudemire's inbound pass, leading to a dunk by Ben Wallace that tied it at 48 about 1:20 into the third quarter. Hinrich, who scored a career-high 38 against Indiana last week, then gave the Bulls their first lead of the game - 50-49 - with a reverse layup. And he kept them in it after Phoenix went on an 8-0 run to grab a 65-59 lead.

"I thought we did a very respectable job guarding them, taking away their easy baskets,'' Hinrich said. "But we didn't have enough on the offensive end.''

Notes: Gordon missed his third game with a sprained right wrist and remains day to day. Deng has missed four of the past five games because of left Achilles tendinitis and is expected to be out one to three weeks. ... Chicago's Chris Duhon had five points and three assists in 32 minutes after missing two of the previous three games with a bruised left knee. He said afterward he will likely sit out the next few. "I think it's definitely affecting me,'' he said.


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