SURE DON’T LOOK LIKE WINNERS
WILLIAMS’ ENCOURAGING REMARKS ASIDE, BULLS FAIL TO MATCH SUNS’ POWER OR IMPROVE PLAYOFF HOPES IN LOSS AT UC
Monty Williams has been in the NBA coaching game since 2005. If he says there’s something special building with the Bulls, you don’t have to buy what he’s selling, but it’s worth a listen.
“When you watch the film, it all lines up,” the Suns coach said Friday. “They’re physical, they have a great weak-side presence, they are defenders on the floor, they put their hands on you, and then you talk about the guys that can score the ball.
“They’re just a team that seems to be put together for the playoffs, even though many may differ from that opinion based on whatever. But I see a team that’s starting to play playoff basketball.”
During some spurts against the Suns on Friday night at the United Center, the Bulls did just that.
But they also showed the flaws that Williams left out of his assessment, starting with continued inconsistency on both ends of the floor. And the Suns — a bona fide playoff team — exposed every one of them. Behind 35 points from Devin Booker, the new-look Suns beat the Bulls 125-104, dropping them to 29-35, two games out of a play-in spot in the Eastern Conference with the Raptors and Wizards both idle.
Time is not on the Bulls’ side.
“We got stagnant here and there, couldn’t catch a rhythm, couldn’t slow them down,” veteran forward DeMar DeRozan said. “We let it slip away.”
The Suns have all the ingredients to be a major threat in the West, with Kevin Durant recently joining Chris Paul and Booker. Bulls coach Billy Donovan coached Durant and Paul separately during his days with the Thunder and had a pretty good idea of what was coming Friday.
“I think it will be great,” Donovan said of the duo. “Both guys are incredibly detailed as far as their routine and commitment, in terms of what goes into winning.” DeRozan agreed.
“It’s scary,” he said. “A triple threat [with Durant, Booker and Paul] — once they catch a rhythm, they’re definitely going to be dangerous.”
In just his second game with his new team since he was traded from the Nets, Durant looked right at home early, scoring five quick points with two assists to help build an eightpoint lead. The Suns (35-29) closed out the first quarter up by 11, having shot just under 60% from the field, including 6-for-13 from three-point range.
Then it flipped, thanks to Zach LaVine and the Bulls’ defense finally showing up. LaVine scored 12 points in the second quarter, while the Suns spent most of the time trying to escape Alex Caruso and Patrick Beverley. Closing on a 16-1 run, the Bulls took a fourpoint lead into halftime. The Suns scored just 20 points on 7-for-19 shooting in the second quarter.
But the good fortune didn’t last long. Thanks to Booker, the Suns immediately took control in the third, outscoring the Bulls 34-21. At that point it was a cannon against a pop gun. The Bulls didn’t stand a chance and were outscored 31-19 in the fourth quarter.
The final telltale numbers? The Bulls went 7-for-23 (30.4%) from three-point range, while the Suns finished 20-for-47 (42.6%). Josh Okogie finished with 25 points for the Suns, and Durant 20.
DeRozan led the Bulls with 31 points, with LaVine adding 27. ✶