The Chicago Bulls returned home empty-handed from a three-game West Coast trip after a 129-102 blowout loss to the Phoenix Suns, sending the team to its third straight loss and eighth in 10 games.
The Bulls threw in the towel with four minutes remaining as both teams subbed out their starters in the drubbing. The loss marked the second-straight game in which the Bulls ceded 125 points or more.
The Bulls headed West ready to be tested. The Suns and Utah Jazz are among the best in the opposing conference, and coach Billy Donovan welcomed the challenge as a chance to prepare the team for the postseason. But with the Bulls 3-8 since the All-Star break, it’s hard to tell how much is being learned from the run of losses as frustration visibly seeps onto the court.
“When we start missing shots and missing shots, you can see it sometimes affects us,” Donovan said. “You’ve got to really invest in stuff that you can control but we’ve got to develop a stamina, a resilience of dealing with it when it’s not going well.”
For a quarter the Bulls held onto hope, but the game got ugly quickly — mostly at the hands of Devin Booker.
The Suns guard dropped 20 points in the first half, nearly matching the production of DeRozan, Vučević and LaVine, who scored a combined 22 points. The Bulls couldn’t slow Booker on blow-by drives, and even double teams weren’t enough to knock him off his midrange shots.
Teams continue to swarm DeRozan — who managed only 19 points on 6-for-14 shooting — and the rest of the Bulls offense couldn’t absorb the load. LaVine took only seven shots, a personal low for the season, but he led the team with nine assists as he continues to play through a left knee injury.
DeRozan said he has noticed the increase in blitzes and double teams since the All-Star break, which forces both him and LaVine to pass out of situations in which shooting opportunities used to arise.
“It’s probably the most of it I’ve seen in my career, to be honest,” DeRozan said. “We’ve got to figure it out and it’s on me to help the guys figure it out as well. The best way to learn is to get knocked in the mouth like we’re doing now.”
Vučević and Tristan Thompson were able to match the production of Deandre Ayton and JaVale McGee around the rim, keeping the teams mostly level in the paint. But the Bulls simply didn’t have a counter for Booker, who scored 28 points before being pulled midway through the fourth quarter.
The Bulls created flashes of success, particularly pushing the pace in transition through LaVine and Alex Caruso. But a lack of finishing from every area of the court prevented the Bulls from matching offensively. They shot 41.2% from the field and only 25.9% from 3-point range.
While the Bulls are still missing starters — Patrick Williams is expected to return next week, while Lonzo Ball is still sidelined indefinitely — the Suns weren’t at full strength either, missing injured stars Chris Paul and Jae Crowder.
The Bulls now face an uphill battle in the final 12 games of the season as they jockey with the Cleveland Cavaliers just above the play-in cutoff line.
“You want to have a smooth, pretty road, whatever destination you’re on, but sometimes it just don’t go that way,” DeRozan said. “You hit bumpy roads and you’ve got to make adjustments to try to get out of that terrain. … It sucks right now because it seems like nothing’s going right, but it’s going to come.”
Source: Berkshire mont