It’s late, so we’ll keep this one on the short side.
In typical Thibs fashion, the Bulls bounced back from an absolute drubbing in Sacramento and returned with a noticeable focus in their 101-92 road win in Phoenix tonight. They set the tone early, playing strong defense and limiting their turnovers on offense. Chicago built a double digit lead early and sustained it until halftime. Once the second half started, Phoenix came out playing much better basketball and made multiple runs that seemed to set them up to steal the game back at the end, but to Chicago’s credit, they wouldn’t slip for too long. The Suns would get it to three or four, but the Bulls never relinquished the lead. D.J. Augustin worked his magic again, hitting a couple big threes, and posting 11 of his 18 points in the final quarter. Phoenix’s last and best attempts to come back failed when on one possession they missed two open triples down six with less than two minutes left, and later, Jimmy Butler tied up a driving Goran Dragic (seen above), with the Bulls winning the tip.
Speaking of missed shots, the Bulls played strong defense, and more importantly the game was played at their tempo, but poor Phoenix shooting was definitely a huge factor. Chicago tends to have problems matching up against stretch fours, and the Suns just didn’t shoot well enough to take advantage of it. For example, Channing Frye had some good looks but was just 2-11 from beyond the arc. Usually Chicago’s struggles to defend big shooters can blamed on Carlos Boozer’s presence forcing Joakim Noah to defend on the perimeter, but the Bulls had trouble tonight even with Taj Gibson on the floor in Boozer’s place. For instance, about halfway through the second quarter, Miles Plumlee stood far enough out on the baseline to render Noah’s impact moot, and Gibson floated halfway between a Morris (I’m not gonna pretend to know which one) at the top of the key and a driving guard. He was unable to prevent penetration, sunk down late and they gave up the open three. Fortunately for Chicago, the Suns simply couldn’t make them pay, going 8-28 overall, and just 2-14 in the first half that saw them trail early.
-Fun with numbers: every Bull had a positive +/- and every Phoenix player had a negative +/-.
-Minutes watch: Jimmy Butler played 43:45, including the entire second half.
-For some reason, after hitting both of his shots in the first half, a three pointer and a nifty fadeaway in the lane, Tony Snell saw just 31 seconds of floor time after intermission.
-Boozer posted a pretty 19 and 12, but needed 21 shots to get there and remained frustrating to watch. Looking at shot charts, I was surprised to see Boozer and Gibson are identical when it comes to how well they score under the basket. The difference is Taj gets 10% more of his looks there than Carlos, who settles far too often for midrange jumpers. Also, the squeaky wheel got the grease, as Boozer played down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
-On NBATV’s postgame show, Noah chuckled upon learning his fine for berating the referees in Sacramento earned him the first fine of the Adam Silver Era.