The Bulls Wednesday, undermanned and underdog, came up with a tough, gritty effort behind the play of Jimmy Butler for a 103-97 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
The Bulls were led by Butler with 32 points, 14 in the fourth quarter after the Bulls fell behind with just under five minutes remaining. Pau Gasol added 17 points and a flying dunk shot late in the game and Kirk Hinrich has 14 points and six assists in being called upon for extra playing time with the backcourt decimated with injuries.
After the Suns went ahead with 4:47 left, Gasol slammed in his running dunk shot, Hinrich made a three and Butler had three straight scores driving and shooting to hold off an aggressive Suns team.
Derrick Rose sat out the game after sustaining the sprained ankle in Monday’s win over the Pacers. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Rose would be evaluated at practice Thursday for the Golden State game Friday. But with Hinrich starting, the Bulls came out pushing the ball impressively and moving in the halfcourt. Gasol was sharp with his jumper for eight points in the first quarter and Butler added 10 points as the Bulls started 20-12 and led 31-18 after one. The Bulls began to increase their lead with a pair of quick scores from Aaron Brooks, who played little the previous two games.
Taj Gibson continued to be aggressive on second shots as the Bulls build their lead to 42-25. But with five straight Bulls misses and a pair of turnovers, the Suns recovered behind Brandon Knight’s scoring and got within 53-47 at halftime. The game slowed and became more physical after halftime as the shots became more contested and the screens more jarring. The Bulls did pull ahead 64-57 on a nice scoring run by Hinrich. But the Suns came back with a pair of late threes and the Bulls went into the fourth quarter leading 72-70. The Suns took a brief lead early in the fourth quarter, but Butler answered as he would again and again. Still, the Suns fought and went ahead 88-87 with 4:47 left as Brooks also left with a hamstring injury. But Hinrich came in for Brooks and made a big three and Butler closed it out with some clutch jump shots.