The Phoenix Suns have used pretty much the same script during their entire eight-game homestand. Grab a big first half lead, only to blow it in the second half, before holding on for a lead late in the fourth quarter.
That was again the case in the Suns 99-93 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Friday night from US Airways Center. On a 7-0 run late in the fourth quarter, the Bulls got within two points at 95-93 with under a minute left, but Eric Bledsoe’s runner in the lane gave the Suns a four-point lead and put the game away for good.
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Phoenix had a great first half, holding a 13-point lead as the two teams headed to the locker room, but for whatever reason, they came out flat to start the second half. The Bulls outscored the Suns 25-13 in the third quarter to draw their deficit within a point.
After their extremely poor third quarter, the Suns gritted it out in the fourth quarter, by hitting some big shots and getting just enough stops down the stretch, to earn their 28th victory of the season.
Bledsoe led all Suns scorers with 23 points. Goran Dragic followed that up with 21 points in 35 minutes of action. Markieff and Marcus Morris also reached double-digit point totals for Phoenix.
For Chicago, they got most of their points from their trio of guards in Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose and former Sun Aaron Brooks. The three combined to score 66 of the Bulls 93 points.
After a 6-2 homestand, the Suns will head right back on the road as they travel to Golden State to play the second best team in the NBA tomorrow night. The tip-off against the Warriors will be 8:30 PM Arizona time.
For as bad as the Suns offense was in the third quarter, it was equally as good in the final 12 minutes. Against a defensive unit which has been one of the best in the league for the past several seasons, the Suns got a lot of easy shots, something they didn’t get a quarter before. Markieff was a big part of that as he had eight of his 12 points in the fourth.
The Suns did a good job on the glass this evening. Heading into the game, Chicago was the second best rebounding team in the entire league, but Phoenix was able to win the rebounding battle by a single board. Markieff, Alex Len and Brandan Wright had 27 rebounds between the three of them. Solid job.
Speaking of Wright, I’m loving the acquisition of him more and more as the days go by. Sure he doesn’t get a ton of minutes, but in the time he does get, he’s productive. Tonight, he had eight points and five rebounds in just under 19 minutes of action. Oh yeah, the Suns were +12 when he was on the floor as well.
The two guard combo of Bledsoe and Dragic were really good tonight. They combined for 44 points on 17-of-34 shooting from the field to go along with 10 assists and six rebounds. When Bledsoe and Dragic are playing that well together, this is a very tough basketball team to beat.
This team’s inability to hold onto big leagues is beyond frustrating at this point. I get that playing at a high level against another NBA team, especially a quality one, for 48 minutes is tough, but there are no excuses for tonight’s near collapse. Chicago was on the second night on a back-to-back and didn’t get back to their hotel rooms until after 3 AM this morning. Keep your foot on the gas and don’t let off.
The Bulls bigs were tough on the Suns bigs pretty much all night long. Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah or Taj Gibson didn’t have big scoring nights, but they did a good job of getting Phoenix’s big men in foul trouble. Len and Markieff saw their minutes take a dip because they were in foul trouble for most of the night.
Staying on the foul front, the free-throw disparity was not good. Now, some fans will blame the refs for that, but there wasn’t a huge difference in terms of fouls between the two teams and the Bulls had 10 more attempts from the charity stripe. Luckily for the Suns, the Bulls missed on 10 of their 27 attempts.
There had to be a reason why Gerald Green didn’t play this evening. With how bad this team struggled in the third quarter, they definitely could have used him on the offensive end. We should find out soon what exactly Jeff Hornacek’s reasoning was for keeping him on the bench.