Bulls' inconsistency at home continues with loss to lowly Suns

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Bulls' inconsistency at home continues with loss to lowly Suns

While the Bulls (20-15) have proved that they are capable of beating some of the league's best teams in a hostile environment, they've also shown that they're equally likely to lose to some of its worst squads on their home court.
That trend continued Saturday night at the United Center, as the Bulls laid an egg in losing to the woeful Phoenix Suns (13-26), 97-81, in an affair that was never in doubt for the visitors after the opening period.
After collectively pledging the previous evening to eliminate their inconsistency--whether it be lackluster efforts at home or playing down to inferior competition--the Bulls' vow didn't show immediate results.
However, against the lowly Suns, they managed to take a slight edge in the early going. Their success came despite Kirk Hinrich picking up two quick fouls, which wasn't necessarily the worst thing in the world, given the potential for infection in the bursa sac of his right elbow--a notion Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau bristled at prior to the contest.
The team's other veteran starting guard, Rip Hamilton (12 points), got off to a quick start, by way of his usual perimeter play, while Joakim Noah's (10 points, 13 rebounds) typical high activity level also buoyed the hosts.
Phoenix kept plugging away, though, and behind crafty power forward Luis Scola (22 points, seven rebounds), the visitors caught up to their hosts--even briefly overtaking them--but the Bulls escaped with a 21-20 lead after a quarter of play.
The contest remained a close-knit affair in the second quarter, as Scola continued to give the Bulls problems with his combination of sophisticated footwork, savvy low-post moves and mid-range jumpers.
Not helping matters was the fact that both Robinson and fellow reserve Taj Gibson got into early foul trouble. The former was still effective as a scorer and playmaker, and while another backup, Marco Belinelli made an impact offensively, the Suns clung to a tenuous lead.
Phoenix played with energy and scrapped on the defensive end--not exactly their forte-- and were buoyed by contributions from the likes of Michael Beasley (20 points) to keep the hosts playing from behind. The former No. 2 overall draft pick in 2008 was actually considered as a possible top selection over Bulls All-Star Derrick Rose, is now an NBA journeyman and had been buried on the Suns bench as of late, but received minutes in this outing due to starter Jared Dudley being sidelined due to injury
Beasley caught fire toward the end of the half, helping the visitors widen the gap and acquire some breathing room. Capped off by a short jumper with 1.2 seconds remaining before the buzzer, his torrid stretch sent the Bulls into the intermission facing a 49-42 deficit.
After the break, the forward duo of Luol Deng (13 points) and Carlos Boozer (15 points, 10 rebounds) came to life--although the latter picked up a technical foul--but they were countered by Scola's continued positive play, as well as that of Chicago-area native Shannon Brown.
Although Boozer and Hamilton helped the Bulls play more efficiently on the offensive end, the home team's defense was lacking, resulting in Phoenix building a double-digit lead, as the visitors' momentum snowballed.
The Bulls' effort wasn't in question at this stage, but their execution and how long it took their sense of urgency to appear were issues. As the third period waned, it became clear that while the desire was there--most evidently in the case of Boozer and Noah--a blend of questionable officiating and bad bounces prevented them from making much headway.
Frustration clearly affected the Bulls--the normally even-keeled Deng also received a technical for berating an official--and as they headed into the final stanza trailing, 77-63, they had an uphill battle on their hands.
Playing with frantic energy at the outset of the fourth quarter, the Bulls' second unit, fueled by Jimmy Butler (13 points), appeared poised to mount one of their trademark rallies. But the inability to get stops on defense or string together an offensive run meant the hosts soon found themselves actually behind by an even larger margin.
Phoenix, playing its fourth game in five nights, had no sympathy for the Bulls' back-to-back plight, and exploited the Bulls' lack of cohesion and general impatience to maintain a stranglehold on the contest. In particular, center Marcin Gortat (eight points, 10 rebounds) and reserve point guard Sebastian Telfair (13 points, six assists) made their respective presences felt.
The unraveling of the Bulls continued, as Robinson and Thibodeau were both hit with technical fouls in short succession, giving the squad four on the evening, mostly in response to perceived non-calls by the referees.
Even Thibodeau saw the writing on the wall as the game entered its stretch run, as he removed his regulars from the contest and inserted the likes of rookie point guard Marquis Teague, seldom-used forward Vladimir Radmanovic and newly-acquired shooting guard Daequan Cook for the conclusion of the disappointing return to Chicago.

Fast Break Morning Update: Bulls explode offensively to beat Bucks; Blackhawks battle Lightning tonight on CSN

Fast Break Morning Update: Bulls explode offensively to beat Bucks; Blackhawks battle Lightning tonight on CSN

Here are some of the top Chicago sports stories from a busy Sunday: 

Tonight on CSN: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls show some moxie in road win over Bucks

Today on CSN: White Sox battle Dodgers in spring training game

From ‘When It Happens’ to ‘Where It Happens,’ Cubs mining next generation of talent

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson's foot could keep him out until late May

Joe Maddon doesn’t have any concerns about new Cubs closer Wade Davis

Nick Delmonico takes advantage of fresh start with White Sox

Cubs expect Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell to be ready for Opening Night

Owners to consider on and off field changes this week during NFL meetings

Honda Road Ahead: Bulls continue playoff push against Cavaliers, Hawks

Honda Road Ahead: Bulls continue playoff push against Cavaliers, Hawks

Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill and Will Perdue break down the Bulls' upcoming schedule in the latest edition of the Bulls Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda dealers.

TNT Bulls are back this week as the team heads into a crucial stretch. 

Currently, the Bulls sit half a game back of the Miami Heat for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and with just eight games remaining on the schedule, each contest is essentially a must-win. 

So, yes, Thursday would be a great time for Jimmy Butler and company to summon their TNT alter ego. The Bulls have sealed 18 straight victories when playing on TNT Thursday, an improbable feat considering those games are usually reserved for two of the NBA's best. 

To continue that run, they'll have to down Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are also fighting for playoff positioning -- albeit at the top of the conference. Good thing the Bulls have a tendency to get up for big games. 

"The Bulls play up and down to their competition," Bulls Pregame and Postgame analyst Kendall Gill said. "They've been doing that the whole season." 

After Cleveland, the Bulls get set to battle another playoff squad, the Atlanta Hawks. 

Watch the video above to see Schanowski, Gill and Perdue break down the matchups.