The Bulls have been taking care of business against the dregs of the NBA, but Friday gave them an opportunity to get a statement win against the Suns. After an ugly start, it looked like the Bulls were going to make that statement when they went up 16 points early in the second half and then got a Luke Kornet (!!!) surge in the third quarter to hold off a Suns run. Unfortunately, Chicago totally melted down in the fourth quarter, turning the ball over 10 times in the final frame and finally succumbing to a 106-97 loss.
The Bulls held a seven-point lead going into the fourth quarter, but they got outscored 32-16 to lose. Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton took over down the stretch, with CP3 scoring six points and dishing out six assists in the fourth and Ayton scoring eight points on 4-of-4 shooting. Paul was truly the difference all game long, as he put up 14 points, 15 assists, three steals and recorded a game-high plus 28. The Cam Payne minutes were brutal (minus-21), but CP3 controlled the game when he was in and led the Suns to the victory.
As for Chicago, the turnover issues were tough to watch in the fourth quarter, but nobody could make any shots either when there were actually shots taken. The Bulls shot over 53% from the field through three quarters but only shot 5-of-15 in the fourth quarter as the Suns locked them down when it mattered. Zach LaVine has played the role of savior so many times of late, but he had as many turnovers as points (4) in the fourth quarter. Nobody else was able to step up during the rough finish.
While the Bulls racked up 19 turnovers and allowed 24 points off those, the Suns only turned it over seven times. That’s a testament to Paul’s control of the game, and Phoenix managed to shoot 50% from the field despite only going 6-of-22 from 3-point land. The Suns scored a whopping 66 points in the paint to just 44 for Chicago.
Given that stat, it wouldn’t surprise you to find out it was a brutal night for the Bulls’ starting frontcourt. Wendell Carter Jr. and Patrick Williams combined for just six points on 3-of-11 shooting, and they struggled together as a starting group. Kornet and Thaddeus Young significantly outplayed them, with Kornet putting up 11 points, five rebounds and three blocks in just 12 minutes. He was a plus-6 in his best game of the season. Young went for 13 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, but he was still an uncharacteristic minus-7 despite the bench’s surge in the first quarter.
LaVine and Coby White led the Bulls in scoring, but they didn’t exactly play well. LaVine’s scoring line looks like an efficient 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting and 4-of-8 from 3-land, but that fourth quarter ruined what was tracking to be another big game. White had 19/5/4 but only made 1-of-6 from 3 and turned it over three times himself. He looked outmatched against CP3 down the stretch.
This was definitely a disappointing outcome given how good the Bulls looked for a portion of this game. Chicago had been playing much better in close games of late, but this was a snap back to reality against a locked-in opponent that means business. Let’s hope the Bulls learn from this one and come back stronger.
Next up is the Raptors in Tampa on Sunday.