The Phoenix Suns were surely pleased to see Derrick Rose scratched from his second straight game for the Chicago Bulls, remaining sidelined in a suit due to a sprained big toe. Rose's absence, however, wasn't enough to draw the middling Suns and thriving Bulls even. Other Bulls stepped up for a thoroughly dominant offensive performance, blowing Phoenix out 118-97 in Chicago.
The game began at a blistering pace, with Steve Nash operating out of the pick-and-roll to find good, open looks for himself and his shooters. Carlos Boozer and friends struggled to contain the Nash-Marcin Gortat two-man game, but made up for it on the other end with snappy, side-switching ball movement on the other end. As the first half progressed, the Suns began to turn the ball over and rim out on jumpers, and the Bulls promptly pulled away.
Chicago's primary weapon was Boozer, who opened the game with one of the best halves of his entire career. The nifty ball movement found Boozer wide open near the basket and at medium range, and he capitalized on his clean looks to notch 26 points in the half -- three more than his season-high for an entire game. He'd go on to finish with a team-leading 31 points, a marked departure from his sub-par performance in the previous losing effort in Memphis. Chicago saw all five starters reach double-digit points, with C.J. Watson also notching a season-high of 23 points in Rose's stead.
Though Phoenix shot the ball quite well, their offense outside of that burgeoning Nash-Gortat pick-and-roll seemed sticky and ineffective. They finished with 19 turnovers on the game, which Chicago converted into 18 points the other way. If there was any bright spot outside of Nash and Gortat, it was Robin Lopez. It was mostly in garbage time, but Lopez came alive for his best performance since the very beginning of the season, finishing around the basket and even canning a few mid-range jumpers for an efficient 16 points in 17 minutes. Really, though, it takes a reach to find much positive in Phoenix's performance against the short-handed Bulls. Quoth the folks at Bright Side of the Sun:
With Derrick Rose sitting this game out I know we all got a little wide-eyed and wondered if we could pull off an upset, but Carlos Boozer had other plans. The same problems reared their ugly head in this game - inconsistent defense and inconsistent offense. Those are not two easy fix problems so we should continue to stay patient and temper our expectations accordingly. Nash and Gortat remain the lone consistent spots on this team so far - unfortunately everything else is so bad it really doesn't matter.
Phoenix's loss drops them to 4-9, while the win moves Chicago to 13-3 on the season, including a perfect 6-0 at home.