Jimmy Butler (heel) and Dwyane Wade (illness) were both back in the lineup Friday night against the Phoenix Suns after missing the last game against the Golden State Warriors. The Bulls looked to be the favorite in this contest as the Suns, who are in the midst of a 3 game losing streak, have the worst record in the Western Conference at 16-37. With a full line-up the Bulls hoped to get back on track after losing 2 of 4 games already on their current 6 game road trip.
The Bulls came out competitive early, keeping up with the young, athletic Suns. Butler, who finished with 20 points, 6 assists, and 2 steals, looked particularly fresh early after missing the previous 3 games. The offense was running smoothly and the defense was fine as the Bulls finished the first quarter down by 2 points. The great play continued until about a minute left in the first half, when the Suns, behind the play of their dynamic backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker, jumped out to a 10 point lead. The Bulls would end the first half down by 13 points.
The Suns would control the play for the rest of the game. Watching the game, it was easy to tell the Bulls looked sluggish and tired. No consistent offense and, more importantly, no energy or desire to play in this game. Doug McDermott was the only bright spot off the bench. He finished with 11 points but only shot 1/3 behind the arc. Most notably, the Bulls three point shooting struggles continued as the team shot only 26.3% from downtown. Mirotić and McDermott, labeled the Bulls “three point specialists” are both shooting under their career average from deep this season. Mirotić, at .299% has almost been a non-factor for the team this season. Coming off of a great 2015-16 season in which he averaged 11.8 points per game and shot 39% from three, the Bulls organization and fans had high hopes from him this season. Unfortunately he has not panned out and looks to be on the trading block for the team. The Bulls were also outrebounded in this one 52-50 and gave up 58 points in the paint. This was not a good showing for the Bulls and their play definitely made that apparent.
The Bulls were down by as much as 20 points, and the Suns eased their way to a 115-97 win at home. Bledsoe and Booker finished with 23 and 27 points a piece. Both were very efficient as they shot over 50% from the floor. This young backcourt looked great and seems to be the next great starting duo in the NBA. Both players can shoot the ball lights out and get to the basket with ease. At 20 and 27 years old, Booker and Bledsoe have the skills and drive to carry the Suns towards a bright future. Soon enough, the Suns will be back in the spotlight in the Western Conference if these two continue to play great basketball on a nightly basis.
The Bulls, now 26-28, have one game left on this 6 game road trip. Up next, the Bulls face former coach Tom Thibodeau and the Minnesota Timberwolves for a midday matchup on Sunday. The Bulls look to bounce back from this rough loss and finish the road trip 3-3 on Sunday. Stay locked to Intern Sports for more Bulls coverage.