While the matchup may have appeared to favor the Suns -- the NBA's hottest team and having had the past two days off, the Bulls -- coming off their worst performance the night before in Sacramento, handed the home team (at least I think it was the home team...there were several Chicago fans in attendance) a 101-92 defeat.
The Suns, who saw their season-high tying five-game winning streak end, were frustrated into 23 fouls plus three technical fouls and 21 turnovers as the Bulls -- for the second time in as many meetings -- dictated the tempo of the game.
The Suns set season lows for points in the first quarter (13) and first half (33), while their final output was the fewest since the last time they faced the Bulls, a 92-87 loss in Chicago.
Goran Dragic scored a game-high 24 points. Channing Frye finished with 18.
The Bulls, meanwhile, got double-doubles from Carlos Boozer (19 points, 12 rebounds) and Joakim Noah (14 points, 14 rebounds), but it was the sharp-shooting of DJ Augustin who nailed down the win. He hit all three of his 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to keep the Suns at arm's length.
Chicago extended its winning streak in Phoenix to five games, sweeping the season series for the fourth time in the past six seasons.
Dragic extended his streak of scoring 20 or more points to a career-long five straight games. He and Leandro Barbosa combined to score 21 of the team's 29 fourth quarter points.
Markieff Morris extended his career-long streak of scoring in double-figures to 11 straight games with 12 points.
After a 33-point first half, the Suns exploded for a 30-point third quarter.
Seven times, including three times in the fourth quarter, the Suns pulled to within four points but could not get any closer in the second half.
Gerald Green missed 11 of his 13 shot attempts and finished with five points. He placed the blame on himself for the loss. "I am supposed to be that spark, that energy guy that we needed and I wasn't there for my team today."
The Suns missed seven of their first eight shot attempts, and then went 4:21 between field goals as the Bulls went on a 9-0 run to go up 11, 17-6 with 3:55 remaining in the first quarter.
STAT OF THE GAME
The Suns, after having led for all but one minute and 59 seconds in the 192 total minutes of the previous four games, never led and only tied the game once as the Bulls led wire-to-wire. It's only the Suns' second game of the season in which they never led.
HE SAID IT
"We didn't come out in the beginning," head coach Jeff Hornacek said. "That's the difference of a team that really gets after it defensively and makes it tough on all the shots---are they fouls, are they good plays? Our guys have to realize that's the way they play and that's the way the game's going so you have to be stronger with it. They took us out of our stuff, but we let them do whatever they wanted."
For much of the first half fans were on the edge of their seats, riveted by -- no, not what was going on on the court (seriously, there was some awful basketball being played), but by what was going on above the court. A bird had found its way inside the arena and was flying around the lower bowl.
And as bad as the play was on the court, it was a fan in the stands who earned "Worst Moment of the Night" honors. Asked to name a Suns player -- other than Charles Barkley -- on the 1993 NBA Finals team, he answered, "Hornacek".
The Suns play their second game in as many nights, making a quick visit to Houston to battle a Rockets team they defeated earlier in the season -- also on the back half of a back-to-back set -- 97-88.
Tip-off Wednesday, February 5 is scheduled for 6 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.