The Phoenix Suns opened up a 23-point lead in the first quarter against a very tired-looking Chicago Bulls team and were seemingly on their way to their first blowout win of the season. But it was the Bulls that that took over the game for the next period, outscoring the Suns by eight and the game was on. Chicago regained their confidence and energy and shut down the Suns' transition game and clawed their way back into the match.
"I think when you get that big lead you ease off a little bit. We've got to continue to still play the way we played no matter what," Suns forward Hakim Warrick said about his team's inability to hold a lead that got up to 18 points with about five minutes left in the third quarter.
Chicago trailed the entire rest of the game until they tied it at the end of regulation and got their first lead in overtime. In the end, it was the Suns who tired first and were unable to keep pace with the Bulls' fantastic defensive effort and missed the few opportunities they did have to hit shots.
At the end of the first overtime period, Jason Richardson hit a three to give the Suns a one-point lead, but after some back and forth and a missed Richardson free throw, the Bulls had the ball with 4.3 seconds. Joakim Noah hit Derrick Rose cutting baseline for a reverse layup to tie the game and send it to a second overtime. Grant Hill took the blame for that play, saying he lost his footing when Rose made his cut.
In the second overtime, the Bulls got ahead thanks to a Suns defensive breakdown that gave Rose a wide open shot and then a jumper by Luol Deng in the face of Hedo Turkoglu's defense. The Bulls defense stifled the tired Suns who simply couldn't hit the shots they needed down the stretch.
The Suns nemesis, rebounding, reared its ugly head again as the Bulls out-rebounded the Suns 47-35 from the second quarter on and that was without the team's second-leading rebounder, Taj Gibson who missed the game with an ankle injury.
A strength for the Suns all season, the bench, was a non-factor other than Warrick, who finished with an impressive 23 points, but all of those were scored in the first half with 19 in the second quarter alone. Coach Gentry was not pleased at all with the performances of his reserves.
"He (Goran Dragic) didn't play very good and as a result of that I have to play Steve (Nash) too many minutes. 48 minutes for Steve is too damn many," Gentry said about his backup point guard. Gentry also singled out Jared Dudley and Josh Childress for their lack of performance. Dragic, Childress and Dudley combined for only five points in the game.
The Bulls bench on the other side was given praise by Chicago Head Coach Tom Thibodeau.
"We were sluggish to start and then I thought our bench came in and gave us great energy and got the game to where it was manageable again."
The Bulls got 24 points from Kyle Kover and 12 points from James Johnson. Those two, combined with a fantastic game from Luol Deng (26 points, 10 rebounds) were the difference. Derrick Rose had his 35 points but he took 33 shots to get them which usually won't win a game without a lot of help. The Bulls got that help tonight from Deng, Kover, Johnson and of course Joakim Noah who had an efficient 17 points, along with 15 rebounds and an impressive five assists.
Grant Hill at the ripe old age of 38, continues to defy belief and led the Suns with 27 points and eight rebounds while Rose led the Bulls with 35 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.
The Suns' next game is Friday night against the Los Angeles Clippers at home.
For more post game discussion, visit Suns blog Bright Side of the Sun.