The Bulls dropped their eighth game in a row — this one, a winnable 112-104 defeat to the Suns. Here are some observations:
We’ve got another Coby White game, folks
The rookie guard was fantastic for the Bulls, finishing with a career-high 33 points on 11-for-22 shooting (7-for-13 from 3) in 33 minutes. That’s White’s first 20-point game since Jan. 10. His last one before that was on Nov. 23.
It was a much-needed performance.
White began on the right note with a stretch in the latter half of the first quarter in which he ripped eight quick points, showcasing his rocket burst and knack for transition creation.
That spurt was part of an 11-0 first period run that vaulted the Bulls from down eight to up three in just over two minutes. Bleeding over into the second, that run eventually swelled to 22-3. And in the second half, he went human torch. He sank three 3-pointers in a row to break the Bulls out of a third quarter lull, then dropped nine points in a flash to kick off the fourth (though he didn’t score after the 9:23 mark).
HE'S HEATING UP 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/BZKZZZCOCk— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) February 23, 2020
The rest of the Bulls’ reserves (Cristiano Felicio, Shaq Harrison and Adam Mokoka — injuries, man) combined for 18 points but the Bulls improbably won the bench battle 51-15. A good night for those arguing that White’s development is best accelerated in his current role.
A winning formula goes awry
Entering play, the Bulls led the league by gaping margins in turnovers forced per game (18) and percentage of points scored off of turnovers (19.7 percent). When they’re at their best, they’re poking balls free, scooping ’em up and running.
That winning formula played out to a tee in the first half as the Bulls built a 17-point lead (they led 57-47 at the break), scoring 24 points off of 16 turnovers along the way. Those are impossible numbers for a two-quarter span.
But the third quarter was the same old story. The Suns opened with a 13-0 run and, despite a blizzard from White, won the period 36-23. The fourth saw Phoenix separate even further. On the whole, the Suns coughed up just three turnovers in the second half compared to the Bulls’ 14.
Deandre Ayton took over down the stretch
Early on, it looked like the Suns would have a red carpet to the rim all game. When the Bulls called a timeout down 13-8 with just over five minutes elapsed in the first quarter, the Suns had 10 points in the paint and Deandre Ayton had already lost Daniel Gafford for three open dunks (Felicio subbed him out for the first time just 4:23 into the game).
The Bulls flipped that script for part of the game. Ayton had a season-high seven turnovers (five in the second quarter) but he completely dominated when it mattered most. Ayton notched 12 points and eight rebounds (seven offensive) in the fourth quarter, extending possessions in demoralizing fashion left and right. He was a man amongst boys, finishing with 28 points and 19 rebounds (10 offensive) on 12-for-20 shooting.
As a team, the Bulls lost the rebound battle 47-38 and points in the paint 54-42. Entering play, they were 30th in the NBA in restricted area field goal percentage allowed and 25th in points per paint allowed per game since Wendell Carter Jr. went down. Tonight, that weakness was exposed.
The doldrums continue
That’s now eight losses in a row for the Bulls — this one of the extremely winnable variety.
Mental lapses (crucially, an ATO turnover down by eight with just under three minutes to play) abounded down the stretch, the shots stopped falling, and the stops and defensive rebounds stopped coming. The Bulls ended the night with a season-high 25 turnovers.
Meanwhile, the Suns had five players in double figures (including a combined 57 from Ayton and Devin Booker) and got timely buckets all around, especially from Cam Johnson. It all culminated in a 112-104 loss where the Bulls were outscored by 20 in the second half.
Next up: The second night of a back-to-back against the Wizards on Sunday.