PHOENIX, Ariz. — The Chicago Bulls won the battle of wills Tuesday night. By doing so, they also won a big road game, 101-92 over the Phoenix Suns.
The Bulls slowed things down against the fast-breaking Suns, shutting down Phoenix’s 3-point game in the process while forcing 21 turnovers.
Forward Carlos Boozer led the Bulls (24-24) with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Guards Jimmy Butler and D.J. Augustin, who hit two late, clutch 3-pointers, each added 18 points. Center Joakim Noah had 14 points and 14 rebounds.
“That was Chicago Bulls’ basketball, and we got back to it.” Boozer said, referring to the Bulls’ terrible loss Monday night in Sacramento. “We kept coming, kept fighting. You’ve got to have a short-term memory, forget about a bad game, or a good game … (otherwise) it can mess you up.”
Boozer waas miffed about his playing time Monday’s 99-70 loss.
Bulls forward Taj Gibson credited coach Tom Thibodeau with a “great” pre-game speech that tried to put the Sacramento loss behind them.
“He said to keep it simple, play hard, play for one another,” Gibson said.
“There are a lot of things going against you, and you could have used that as an excuse. But that is what I love about this team,” Thibodeau said. “They come out, and they are going to fight. They picked themselves up. There was no trying to do it by themselves. Everyone tried to do it together. When we do that, we have a chance.”
The Suns (29-19) had their five-game win streak broken. They were led by guard Goran Dragic, who had 24 points and seven rebounds.
“It was just hard to pass and then cut,” Dragic said.
The Bulls held the Suns to season lows of 13 points in the first quarter and 33 points in the first half.
In the first half, the Suns shot only 30 percent from the field and had an embarrassing 13 turnovers compared to 12 made baskets.
Dragic managed, briefly, to speed up the pace as the Suns cut the lead to 50-46, then Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy hit a pair of 3-pointers to help put Chicago up 59-48.
The Suns cut the lead to 65-61, but an ill-advised three-shot foul by guard Leandro Barbosa on Butler as the 24-second clock expired helped the Bulls. Butler hit 2-for-3 from the line for a 67-61 lead.
Augustin nailed a pair of 3-pointers to help push the lead to 82-70 early in the fourth quarter. The Suns, led by Barbosa and Dragic, battled back, but never got closer than four points.
The Bulls limited the Suns to 39 percent shooting, including just 29 percent on 3-pointers (8-for-28).
Gerald Green, the Suns’ hot-and-cold shooting guard, shot just 2-for-13, including 1-for-5 from long range.
“I just let my team down,” Green said.
The Bulls’ win was their fifth straight in Phoenix.
Thibodeau, asked about Boozer’s unhappiness the previous night, said, “This isn’t about one person. I’m asking the entire team to sacrifice. The team will always come first. That’s not going to change.”
NOTES: The Suns find themselves in a surprising playoff push, though coach Jeff Hornacek said because his team is so young he does not talk about the playoffs, preferring to push for near-term improvement. He cites “great chemistry” as part of the reason for their success, noting that if the Suns bring in any player via trade (they have been linked to Lakers C Pau Gasol), “Whoever comes in would have to try to fit into that chemistry.” … Coming into the game, though the Bulls had won 14 of their previous 22 to get themselves out of a 9-16 hole, they also had lost three of their past four. Included is Monday night’s debacle in Sacramento, where the Bulls shot 28 percent — worst for any NBA team this season — in a 99-70 loss. “You can’t exhale in this league,” Thibodeau said. “If you let up just a little, it will show.” … During the previous four games, Suns G Goran Dragic had averaged 26.8 points on 64 percent shooting from the field (69 percent on 3-pointers), plus 6.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals. He was named Western Conference player of the week.
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