The Suns seem like a fun team to watch: they look to push the ball often (they're 6th in pace), they feature an exciting lead guard in Goran Dragic, and everyone shoots a lot of threes. They struggled initially without Eric Bledsoe but were riding a 5-game win streak.
Unfortunately for our eyes (but not the win column) the Bulls goal is to make every team look like crap, so that they have a chance to get the win. And from the outset on Tuesday night it was clear that the Bulls were not going to let the Suns entertain anyone.
Less than 24 hours after a deplorably-bad loss to the Kings, the Bulls defense was fantastic. They limited the Suns to a season-worst 13 point first quarter and 33 point first half. The opening quarter was especially terrible for Phoenix: 28.6% shooting and only getting 14% of those offensive rebounds, compounded by 6 turnovers. I'm going to give Kirk Hinrich some credit, here: he did a great job hassling Dragic not only when he could stay in front of him but merely disrupting his attempts to lead fast breaks. Throughout the game the Bulls transition defense was pretty great though it was viscerally unpleasing to see that many drawn charges...again, ThibsBall.
The Bulls also had their turnover issues (they finished the game with 18 to Phoenix's 21) and typical offensive woes (1-7 from three in the first half), so they didn't exactly pull away in this time. And the 2nd half began with a Phoenix run that brought them to within 4 points very quickly. But throughout the rest of the game, they never got closer than that deficit, and the flow of the game was mired in whistles and complaints from both sides.
The danger of a Phoenix run was always there simply due to the Suns taking so many threes, especially from their big men. Channing Frye was 2-11 from deep, 'leading' his team to a 8-28 performance overall from that range. While some attempts you could consider makeable, I think it was more the Bulls defensive effort that led to this result, as these were slightly-rushed attempts from the deepest points of the court. The transition defense and defensive rebounding also made sure that the Bulls were always set to adequately challenge a Phoenix three.
In the second half, Dragic recovered a bit and helped keep the Bulls from pulling away, but 3 DJ Augustin three-pointers kept them at bay. Augustin finished with 18, Jimmy Butler had 18 (in over 43 minutes, naturally) and Carlos Boozer had 19 though on 21 shots. Down the stretch Joakim Noah hit a couple of challenged attempts in isolation, and even Boozer was subbed in for a late 4th quarter (!) basket. Plus he defended nicely on the following possession too. Back in the circle, Booz! The Bulls looked terrible just the night before, but in Phoenix spent their time doing what they usually do: making the other team look worse.