It was a battle of the sixth seeds in their respective conferences as the Chicago Bulls faced off against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night. Coming off a 29 beat down from the Sacramento Kings, the Chicago Bulls were looking to get back on track in Phoenix.
The Suns have been one of the surprise teams in the Western Conference this season and they came into Tuesday night’s tilt as the hottest team in the league looking for their sixth straight victory. Goran Dragic was one of several all-star snubs this year and he came into this game having just received Western Conference player of week honors, averaging 26.3 points and six assists during that stretch.
While both the Bulls and Suns are battling for the sixth seed in their conferences, their records are anything but similar. The Suns came into Tuesday night’s game with a record of 29-18 in the competitive Western Conference, while the Bulls sat one game below .500 at 23-24 in the feeble Eastern Conference.
In the first half it was the stifling Chicago Bulls defense that dominated the game as the Suns were held to a season low 13 points in the first quarter. While the Bulls are one of the best defensive teams in the league, without the offensive skills of Derrick Rose and the recently traded Luol Deng, Chicago is the lowest scoring team in the NBA this season. But in the first Half it was the Bulls defense leading to offense as they forced the Suns into committing 13 turnovers and shooting 30 percent from the field on route to 44-33 Bulls lead at halftime.
Thirty-three points at halftime was a season low for the Suns, who are sixth in the league in scoring and average 105 points per game. The Suns average 18.6 fast break points per game, which is the best in NBA. They got back to their fast paced offensive game in the third quarter, thanks to a personal 6-0 run by Goran Dragic. Phoenix put up 30 points in the quarter and headed into the fourth quarter trailing 69-63.
The NBA will need to replace Kobe Bryant and potentially Chris Paul on this year’s all-star team. Goran Dragic must have heard about it because he came up big in the fourth quarter for the Suns. Dragic put up 12 of his team high 24 points in the final frame, while Leondro Barbosa contributed 9 of his own in the quarter to trim the Bulls lead to four.
That would be as close as the Suns would get in this game, as DJ Augustin came up huge in the final quarter for the Bulls scoring 11 of his 19 points in the fourth. Carlos Boozer had been benched in the fourth quarter of the previous two games for the Bulls in favor of Taj Gibson, but Boozer came up big on Tuesday night with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
The Bulls led the entire game and their season sweep of the Suns improved their record on the road to 11-14 and 24-24 overall. After being ejected and fined $15 thousand on Monday night against the Sacramento Kings, Joakhim Noah had a solid bounce back game with 14 points and 14 rebounds. The Bulls got the best of the Suns in this cross conference sixth seed match up, but both teams will continue to battle their way through the season and into the playoffs.
By Eric Kummel