Bulls focus on winning ways to top Suns
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Bulls guard D.J. Augustin passes around the Suns' Markieff Morris during the first half Tuesday night. Augustin finished with 18 points in the Bulls' victory.
One thing about the Bulls during coach Tom Thibodeau's tenure: They tend to run completely opposite of normal NBA expectations.
For example, on Monday they lost by 29 points to Sacramento, a team riding a seven-game losing streak.
So naturally, the very next night, against a rested team that had won five straight games, the Bulls turned back the Phoenix Suns 101-92 at the US Airways Center. The Bulls improved to 2-2 on the ice-show road trip, with the next stop Thursday in Golden State.
Joakim Noah, after being ejected in Sacramento and fined $15,000 by the league office, delivered 14 points and 14 rebounds.
Carlos Boozer, who complained Monday about his lack of fourth-quarter action, finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds in Phoenix.
Boozer even got a chance to shine in the fourth quarter. He didn't play much down the stretch, but with the Bulls nursing a 4-point lead, Boozer caught an inbound pass, faked a handoff to D.J. Augustin, then drove the baseline and dropped in a hook shot. Boozer's bucket gave the Bulls a 95-89 lead with 1:43 remaining.
"We played a terrible game as a team last night collectively," Boozer told Fox Sports after the game. "We had a back to back; we got here late to Phoenix. But we all said to each other, 'Let's just go hard, fight back, do whatever it takes to win.' We got a big win on the road for us."
The fourth quarter was mostly about the Bulls making big shots. And, yes, this was the same group of players who shot 28.2 percent from the field against the Kings, the Bulls' worst total in more than 10 years.
Augustin (18 points) hit 3 shots from 3-point range in the final quarter. When the Suns closed within 6 points, Noah drained an 18-foot jumper, then Jimmy Butler (18 points) canned a 3-pointer.
Phoenix made another run and got within 89-85 after a Goran Dragic 3-pointer and a jumper by Leandro Barbosa. This time the Bulls (24-24) answered with a driving lay-in by Butler and a tough, running one-handed bank shot by Noah. The Suns, one of the better offensive teams in the league, shot 38.8 percent from the field against the Bulls.
"The thing that I liked was the effort to get back and then to put our bodies in front of people," Thibodeau told reporters after the game. "I thought our willingness to take charges was huge."
"There's going to be some nights you shoot the ball better than others. The disappointing thing about the Sacramento game was we didn't defend and didn't rebound."
The Bulls jumped to an early 17-6 lead and never trailed. Phoenix (29-19) closed within 4 points a few times in the third quarter, but when Augustin opened the fourth with a 3-pointer, the lead was back to 72-63. Augustin added 2 more 3-pointers to send the Bulls to an 82-70 advantage with 7:35 left.
Before the game, Noah talked about being fined by the league. There seemed to be some danger of a one-game suspension, but the league office stuck to the traditional punishment -- fines for profanity, suspensions for violence.
"I think it was fair," Noah said, according to bulls.com. "It was a bad mistake on my part. I have to keep my cool under all circumstances. It's unfortunate I have to pay for it. And I have to move on and just get ready for the game. I was ready for whatever consequences were going to be thrown my way."
Thibodeau stuck with his usual mantra of focusing on the present, not the past.
"It's an emotional game," he said. "Obviously, you don't want to lose control of your emotions. It happened. I never thought it warranted suspension. It was probably appropriate; he got fined for cursing."
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