Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler return but Bulls come out flat against Suns

Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler return but Bulls come out flat against Suns

PHOENIX — Dwyane Wade had a wry smile as he mishandled a dribble on the baseline, an unforced turnover that often leads to nothing.

But the Phoenix Suns were off and running in the blink of the eye, with P.J. Tucker getting it ahead to Eric Bledsoe who Euro-stepped into the lane for a layup and foul on Jerian Grant.

No time to complain, half-step or even smile at yourself in disbelief as the Suns have one advantage, especially at home.

Run you out of the building.

Wade and Jimmy Butler's return was necessary but it wasn't fruitful as the Bulls dropped one to the Western Conference basement-dwelling Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena, 115-97 Friday night.

"Awful, awful," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "They out-competed us in every category tonight: rebounding, loose balls, transition. Tells you all you need to know."

Butler returned from a three-game absence due to a right heel contusion and scored 20 in 30 minutes. Wade getting back from that illness that made its way through the league and the team last month served him well as he played with fresh legs and scored 18.

But both came away with injuries as Wade had his wrist wrapped up after a hard second half spill and Butler took a shot to the knee from Bledsoe in the fourth quarter.

He tried to stay in but a few minutes later the game was out of hand as the Bulls couldn't cut into a double-digit deficit in the fourth, perhaps their worst end to end effort in quite awhile.

"I'm just hoping this pain goes away. Sometimes the game goes, you gotta use that foot," Butler said. "Nothing major (knee). It's all good. I'll be fine."

But when asked would he play Sunday, Butler seemed to put his availability into question, saying, "That's a good question. That's a very good question."

Having Butler back aided in terms of shot creation, as he had little trouble getting his own despite clearly looking less than his usual self. He started the second half just one of six and finished going six of 16 from the field, with the Bulls unable to get any offensive traction with just 43 percent from the field and hitting five of 19 triples.

Even though the offense was a big enough problem for Hoiberg to harp on, the defense was inexcusable as they didn't get back — the first tenet of defense.

[PREVIEW: A day in the life of the Windy City Bulls]

"That's all we talked about and we said don't be surprised," Hoiberg said.

Apparently, they looked shocked the Suns came out and ran.

"It didn't get better," Butler said. "We didn't get back. They got a lot of easy ones and it's tough when you gotta take the ball out of the net every time. They get their confidence, they get rolling."

Notably, it was the Suns' backcourt that gave the Bulls the flu, as the Bulls had to know containing Bledsoe and Devin Booker was the biggest key to picking up their third win in five games on the West Coast swing.

Bledsoe lived in the paint all night on his way to 23 and the sharpshooting Booker scored 27 easy points. The Suns shot nearly 50 percent and turned it over just eight times.

Facing the best team at getting out for quick scores gave them a nice primer on the Suns' attack — although the Suns are nowhere near as sophisticated or good as the Warriors.

But they ran the Bulls up and down in the second quarter to take a 13-point lead. They had trouble tracking the dangerous Booker and too many times the Bulls blew defensive assignments inside to allow easy baskets.

"If you don't know what you do well how do you win consistently? In a game like today when you look at it statistically, everything we gave up is how we lose games," Wade said. "We turned the ball over a lot, gave them a lot of transition points and didn't have a lot of ball movement. Those things and losing the rebounding war, those are the things that give you a chance to win most nights."

But it wasn't just Bledsoe breaking the Bulls down but also Brandon Knight off the bench and bruiser Alan Williams bumping and knocking bodies around for a double-double off the bench after former Bull Tyson Chandler went out in the second quarter with an injury.

This was supposed to be a game the Bulls could pick up as the topsy-turvy East isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Instead, they laid an egg — just the momentum they want to carry into Minneapolis Sunday afternoon.

All of our 2018 NBA Draft content in one convenient place


All of our 2018 NBA Draft content in one convenient place

The NBA Draft is upon us. And we've got all of our NBA Draft content in one place for you. How convenient.

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Carlos Boozer says Nate Robinson was one of his favorite teammate because 'he would bring snacks to every flight'

Carlos Boozer says Nate Robinson was one of his favorite teammate because 'he would bring snacks to every flight'

Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson only played one season together with the Bulls. But oh, what a memorable campaign it was.

And it produced a friendship that still lasts to this day. Cupcakes and snacks will do just that.

Boozer retold a story to NBC Sports Chicago on Tuesday of Robinson and his daughter, Navyi, baking cupcakes for Bulls players on road trips.

"We had so much fun. Me and Nate hit it off right away," Boozer said. "We're both very animated, we're both very loud, we talk a lot, we're great teammates. We love playing passionately, we compete.

"Nate is one of the best teammates I ever had. I played my whole life, I've been playing a long time and he's the only teammate that would bring snacks to every flight. And we'd travel on the road, he would bake us cupcakes for every road game. I never had that before.

"Him and his daughter, Navyi, would bake the cupcakes before every road game. So every road game we'd get to the plane and Nate would hook us up with cupcakes.

"Just a great teammate. He'd go through a brick wall for you, never complained, practice every day, play every day, ready to come and give it his best."

Boozer and Robinson will face off against each other during the Big3 Tournament, which begins this weekend in Houston. The league will travel to Chicago and the United Center on June 29.

"I'm looking forward to being in Chicago," Boozer said. "We've got a lot of great fans out there. I miss the (United Center), miss that Chicagotime summer weather and looking forward to getting back out there in a couple weeks."

Boozer's Ghost Ballers and Robinson's Tri-State team won't square off against one another until Week 5 in Miami. But it's sure to be a fun matchup for the two friends and snack buddies.

"He's one of my brothers, one of my closest friends," Boozer said. "Nate has been training like an animal and he's gonna use this platform to show everybody how much skills he has, also to get back into the NBA. Nate's a great talent and I'm looking forward to seeing him get down."

Boozer's team includes co-captains Mike Bibby and Ricky Davis, which gives them a pretty solid trio heading into the event. But no teammate, NBA or Big3, can match Nate Rob and his cupcakes.

Check out more on the Big3 right here.