On a back-to-back and 3rd game in 4 nights, the Bulls still managed to have enough...uh...spirit to beat the Phoenix Suns 116-101 to finish out their road trip by snapping a 5 game losing streak.
There was no tanking strategy employed by the Boylen Boys in preparation for this marquee context between 2 teams in the bottom-four of the standings. Otto Porter was out with a shoulder injury but by all accounts that was legitimate. The rest of the starters, including Zach LaVine, were all available.
That included Robin Lopez, who was dominant to the tune of 24 points and 7 boards. His lineups were a team-high +24 in his 26 minutes of action.
This has been a huge chunk of the Bulls' offense tonight. A TON of post ups, watching Robin Lopez back down his man. It's working but it's a Pyrrhic victory. Lopez was 7-of-9 in that first half, led the team in shots and points. pic.twitter.com/qJOPzQ0vKB— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) March 19, 2019
Lopez was key behind a 34-20 first quarter edge that for the rest of the game saw the Bulls lead rarely get near ten. The purportedly more important players like Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen did wind up joining in on the action in the 2nd half, both with 17 (Markkanen on 15 shots, LaVine on 10).
Both teams shot terribly from distance, the Bulls going 4-16 and Suns at 7-26. But the Bulls outscored them by 20 in the paint. Toughness.
Shaq Harrison got the surprise start for Porter, I guess maybe trying to use REVENGE GAME motivation? It likely didn’t help with floor spacing, but he did do this late.
The Suns are drawing up some elite tank plays after timeout. pic.twitter.com/8uF1PkWb3T— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) March 19, 2019
This was during the ‘key’ moments where the Bulls lead did shrink a bit with their awful bench in, but the starters came back in for the final 6 minutes to secure things. Then Boylen called timeout with under a minute which annoyed his second opposing coach in 3 games.
The Suns have had some ‘big’ wins lately too, but they also had several players out in this one due to injury (I won’t bother researching the veracity of them). Plus they, like the Bulls, are just a non-playoff team playing out the string since the trade deadline and these games have no meaning. I only pay attention to see if the team is embarrassing enough to force the Bulls to do a coaching search this offseason.
Tonight, not so much, due to...uh...Robin Lopez, cool. I know tank-humpers are especially upset that they didn’t start Cristiano Felicio with one shoe on or something, but while this was a game against a fellow bottom-4 squad, I think we’ve learned this team can lose to anybody and weird results happen in these pointless contests (Cavaliers won tonight, for example), so have faith?