The second half wasn’t pretty, but the Phoenix Suns found themselves in the win column again after holding off the talented Chicago Bulls.
The Suns dominated the second quarter Friday and built a lead as big as 16, but Chicago worked its way back in the following period, even taking a lead for a moment.
Marcus and Markieff Morris made several buckets that gave Phoenix get some separation early in the final quarter, and then Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and P.J. Tucker helped seal a 99-93 victory, the Suns’ second in a row.
Phoenix finished with a 6-2 record on its franchise-record eight-game homestand, improving to 28-20 overall, which is 2.5 games ahead of New Orleans for the eighth spot in the Western Conference. The Suns will have little time to rest as they hit the road to face Golden State (36-8) on Saturday night — a team which lost to the Utah Jazz on Friday.
Chicago lost its second straight in as many nights and fell to 30-19, still fourth in the Eastern Conference.
Here’s a look at Friday night’s game at US Airways Center, by the numbers:
Gerald Green didn’t take the floor for the first time all season. He wasn’t reported to be injured, and Hornacek only commented after the game that Green just wasn’t a part of the rotation Friday.
After five straight games of 18 or more points, Suns guard Isaiah Thomas had a quiet night with six points on 2-of-9 shooting. The 5-foot-9 reserve also had three rebounds, one steal and just one assist in 24 minutes.
Recently acquired power forward/center Brandan Wright had his second straight productive game for Phoenix. In 19 minutes against the Bulls, he shot 3-for-4 from the field and 2-for-2 from the line, ending with eight points, five rebounds and a game-high-tying two blocks. He also was plus-12 when he was on the floor — the third-best mark on the team behind Markieff Morris (plus-14) and Thomas (plus-13).
Both Morris brothers finished with 12 points, as they were two of only four Suns players to reach double-figures Friday. The duo scored the Suns’ first nine points in the fourth quarter, and combined for 13 in the period overall. They both, however, struggled from the field, as Markieff shot 5-for-16 and Marcus was 4-for-11.
The third quarter was brutal for the home crowd as the Suns managed only 13 points, a new season low. They saw a 13-point halftime lead turn into a one-point deficit with about 30 seconds left in the third quarter, but a Wright hook shot gave Phoenix the lead again before the end of the period. Chicago put up 25 points during the Suns’ lackluster quarter.
Although Markieff Morris struggled from the field, he ripped down a season-high 14 rebounds, including 12 on the defensive end. Morris recorded his first double-double since Jan. 6 at Milwaukee, and it was his seventh of the season. The Suns are now 6-1 this year when the fourth-year forward reaches double-figures in the two categories.
Phoenix improved to 15-6 against the Eastern Conference this season, but the team is still only 13-14 against Western clubs.
Chicago was playing with little rest as it went into double overtime with the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night and had to travel to Phoenix and begin a game roughly 20 hours later.
By luck of the draw, Chicago also played Phoenix at US Airways Center in the Suns’ 48th contest last season, but that game went 101-92 in the Bulls’ favor, which dropped the Suns to 29-19. Phoenix ended a five-game home losing streak to the Bulls with Friday’s victory, and the club is just one win behind its record at this point last season.
Bledsoe and Dragic both shot exactly 50 percent from the floor, and they teamed up for more than 44 percent of the Suns’ total points Friday: Bledsoe put up 23, while Dragic finished with 21. The duo also combined for 10 assists. Bledsoe had a game-high three steals, while Dragic had a season-high two rejections.
Just as the Suns are a guard-heavy team, so the Bulls appear to be one too, at least on the offensive end. Derrick Rose led the team with 23, while Jimmy Butler poured in 22 and Aaron Brooks came off the bench to put up 21. The trio was responsible for roughly 71 percent of Chicago’s points in the loss, while the rest of the team only managed 27 points.
The 99 points were the lowest total for the Suns on the eight-game homestand, but they were enough for the team’s sixth victory in the span. Part of the reason for Phoenix’s low score was its 6-for-22 performance from behind the three-point line, and Chicago held the home team to a 43.3 percent night from the field overall. The Suns hadn’t won a game scoring fewer than 100 points since a 99-90 victory in New York on Dec. 20, and they hadn’t won at home with such a modest total since a 94-89 triumph over San Antonio on Oct. 31.