The Bulls Monday gave up a 16-point fourth quarter lead and were stunned by a follow up basket with three tenths of a second left and lost 103-101 to the Phoenix Suns.
It was a stunning and disappointing loss for the Bulls, who fell to 11-7. The Suns, seemingly tiring at the end of a long road trip and playing their fifth game in seven night, were outscored 26-10 in the third quarter. But they came storming back down the stretch mostly behind Brandon Knight’s one-on-one play to steal the victory.
The Suns tied the game at 101 with just over a minute left after the Bulls looked like they avoided the meltdown with a five-point lead with 1:47 remaining. But Suns reserve Mirza Teletovic put in a fadeaway offensive rebound shot for the winner. The Bulls were unable to get another shot off.
Knight had 21 for the Suns and Teletovic 20. Pau Gasol had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls. Jimmy Butler had 19 and Derrick Rose 14, including three straight late fourth quarter baskets that looked like they might save the Bulls.
The discussion since the Saturday loss to Charlotte was starting blocks energy, and at least Tony Snell listened. The sometimes laid back forward had the Suns back on their heels early with a pair of three pointers and a drive for a score. That slam dunk gave the Bulls a 16-11 lead about five minutes in, and Gasol closed the quarter strong against the Suns smaller lineups with 11 points as the Bulls led 30-27 after one quarter.
This time the offense went stagnant after the substitutions as the Bulls failed to score on five of their first seven second quarter possessions and the Suns tied the game at 34. The Bulls never got much going in the second quarter, shooting below 40 percent with six turnovers. Taj Gibson did have some success muscling inside, but the Suns behind Eric Bledsoe’s pick and roll play tied the game at 51 at the half despite Gasol, Snell and Butler scoring in double figures.
The Bulls then applied the defensive lock on a Suns team closing a six-game Eastern Conference road trip. Gasol continued his dominance early in the third quarter with a three pointer and a reverse drive. Rose got it going with three scoring layups in the third quarter while Mirotic added playmaking on the fast break as the Bulls went into the fourth quarter with a 77-61 lead. The Suns scored 10 third quarter points on four of 20 shooting with six turnovers. But the Bulls with a big lead once again went limp, starting the fourth quarter casually as the Suns hustled their way back within 10. Then Knight finally got going with three straight jumpers, and with just under five minutes remaining the Suns had closed within 88-86.