Bulls fall to Suns

It’s always sunny in Phoenix, but not so much for the Bulls Friday in a 115-97 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

It was a mostly discouraging performance in which the Bulls trailed after a 9-2 run that broke a tie midway through the second quarter. The Suns finished that second quarter 17-4 and then led the rest of the game. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg pulled his regulars with 4:40 left and the Bulls trailing 104-87.

The Bulls were led by Jimmy Butler with 20 points and 18 from Dwyane Wade. Robin Lopez had 12 points and seven rebounds and Taj Gibson 10 points and six rebounds. Doug McDermott added 11 points off the bench. The Suns got 27 points from Devin Booker and 23 from Eric Bledsoe. The Suns had a 19-6 edge in fast break points that defined the flow of the game and shot 50.5 percent.

The Bulls fell to 26-28 with one more game left on this road trip. They are 2-3. The Suns are 17-37 and had lost seven straight at home.

The Bulls were looking to get back to .500 for the 11th time this season, last being above .500 at 19-18. Butler was back after missing three games with a heel injury, though still bothered a bit. Wade also returned from his illness that cost him the Golden State game. So the Bulls were looking to guarantee at least a .500 trip against a Suns team with backup center Alex Len suspended from a previous incident stepping off the bench. The Bulls were wary of the Suns transition play, but the Suns still got a pair of runouts by Booker for a 10-6 lead. He had 13 in the first quarter. The Bulls regrouped behind Butler with eight in the first quarter and a 14-4 run highlighted by a Gibson baseline slam on a fancy dropstep move. Nikola Mirotic added a three when the starters went out as the Bulls went ahead 25-16. But the Suns closed the quarter with a 12-1 run to take a 28-26 lead after one quarter with a pair of late threes in transition. The Bulls got the lead back early in the second quarter with threes from McDermott and Rajon Rondo, but the Suns proved difficult with their guard-oriented lineup and fast paced play. Butler had an impressive driving reverse layup to tie the game at 39 with 5:43 left in the first half, though he had his shot blocked on several drives. The Suns then moved ahead with six straight points as they continued to collapse the inside and the Bulls without enough success continued to drive inside. The Bulls offensive engine shut off like they were in the middle of a lake and the Suns went skiing by, another big Phoenix close to a quarter. It was all Suns with 5:43 left in the half with the Suns outscrapping the Bulls inside for loose balls and forcing the Bulls into isolation jump shots. The smallish Suns with Len suspended and Tyson Chandler leaving with a sprained ankle midway through the second quarter outrebounded the Bulls 25-19 in the half while the Bulls had eight turnovers the Suns turned into 13 points and had a 30-13 inside points advantage.

The Bulls came out for the second half with some spunk, sending the Suns into a timeout two minutes in with a 9-2 run behind Wade. But the clouds began to cover the Bulls again while the Suns came out shining with repeated second efforts and 14 of the next 21 points to take a 72-59 lead with just over five minutes in the third quarter. The Bulls got a pair of tough inside scores from Gibson and McDermott teaming up for a driving score each. But the Suns still went into the fourth quarter with an 86-76 lead as the Suns guards proved too elusive. The Bulls again couldn’t get enough going offensively and with lost opportunities. Denzel Valentine on a fast break overshot McDermott with a pass and the Suns ran it back into a Jared Dudley three for a 92-80 lead. With 6:12 left, the Suns still led 98-85.