The Chicago Bulls aren’t enjoying their travels out West, losing 99-93 to the Phoenix Suns and making it two in a row, with Derrick Rose still struggling with his shooting, but on the other hand the team looked terrible when he wasn’t playing.
The Suns were led by Eric Bledsoe with 23 points, teaming up nicely, almost as always, with Goran Dragic, scoring 21 points. Markieff Morris finished with a nice 12-14 double double, while Pau Gasol, scoring just 10 points, had his 9th consecutive double double, grabbing also 19 rebounds. Rose with 23 points led the Bulls, and Jimmy Butler scored 22 points, helping out but not enough.
One issue right now is Rose trying to force his shot way too much. He did lead the Bulls with 23 points, but he finished with just 8-of-23 from the field. He was only 0-for-6 from beyond the arc and is shooting just 34.1% from the field over the last three games. He’s 1-of-13 from beyond the arc in the last two games.
But the Suns ran over the Bulls when Rose wasn’t playing. In his 36 minutes, Rose had a team high +15. But the Bulls’ attempts to integrate their usually very successful and efficient bench unit into the game didn’t work so well. Aaron Brooks did score 21 points but Taj Gibson finished with just 4 points and Nikola Mirotic finished with 0. The Suns had a much easier time on both ends of the floor handling the subs, and overall their change in the lineup to a Dragic-Bledsoe-Len-Tucker-Markieff from Mid-December has been very successful. More minutes for Thomas next to Dragic and Bledsoe has also worked very well.
The Suns outscored the Bulls by 21 points when Rose wasn’t playing, because of the problems he was giving them on defense, even when he wasn’t scoring. Bledsoe himself had problems with Rose as a primary defender, holding the point guard to just 3-of-9 from the field, compared with 5-of-7 against all other defenders. The Suns outscored the Bulls by 16 points in the first half when Rose was off the court.
Right now going ice cold from outside the paint is killing the Bulls, among other things. They did score 52 points in the paint and made 55.8% of those shots, but were only making 29.4% of their 34 attempts from outside the paint, yielding just 24 points, including going only 4-of-18 from beyond the arc. Getting outscored in transition which shows a problem with the ball movement and flow of play is another issue that keeps coming up in their losses.
The Suns going 16-6 since mid December and still being only 8th in the West tells us some more about how difficult the competition is in the conference. The Bulls are 30-19, good enough for fourth in the East (only 7th in the West). Maybe it’s time for Rose to call out his teammates again, because it seemed to affect them for a very short time after a couple of wins that made it seem like they’re on the right path again.