Bulls get Butler, Wade back, but lose to Phoenix
The jump ball to open Friday's game between the Bulls and Phoenix Suns featured Robin Lopez, who began his career with the Suns, and Tyson Chandler, who started with the Bulls.
That wasn't the only memory featured in Friday's late start at Walking Stick Resort Arena. The Bulls had Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade back on the court together for the first time in more than a week.
That appeared to be positive news, but the game didn't go well. The Bulls suffered lapses late in both halves and lost to the Suns 115-97.
The Suns (17-37) snapped an eight-game losing streak at Walking Stick Resort Arena. This building has been kind to the Bulls, too. They'd won six of their last seven games in Phoenix.
Butler led the Bulls with 20 points and 6 assists, hitting 6 of 16 shots from the field in 30 minutes of action. Wade added 18 points.
With about five minutes left, Butler was shaken up when Suns guard Eric Bledsoe was fouled on a jumper, fell backward and rolled into Butler's right leg. Coach Fred Hoiberg sent a sub to check in, but Butler waved him off and stayed in the game.
Butler returned Friday after missing three games with a right heel contusion. He seemed to be moving well, but at the morning shootaround, Butler told reporters the injury still hadn't healed. The decision to play wasn't made until about an hour before game time after he warmed up on the court.
"It feels better but it's not the same," Butler said after shootaround, according to espn.com. "It's not where I can go out there and be the player that I want to be to help this team win. And if you go out there and you play like that, now if I mess up something else and it's even longer that I'm out, now what?"
Wade missed Wednesday's loss to Golden State with an upper respiratory illness.
"Obviously, it's still in me," Wade said Friday. "Still getting (the sickness) out. But I feel good enough to go out there and give my team a lift."
The Bulls started off OK against the Suns, but a lapse late in the first half had them playing from behind. The score was tied at 39-39 for nearly two minutes late in the second quarter, until a runner by Brandon Knight put Phoenix up by 2 with 4:03 left.
That basket ignited a 17-4 run and the Bulls headed to the locker room trailing 56-43. The Bulls missed 9 of 11 shots and committed 3 turnovers in the final five minutes of the first half.
The Bulls tried taking it to the rim in the third quarter and cut the Phoenix lead to 6. The Suns were forced to play smaller lineups because Chandler turned his ankle in the second quarter and did not return. Center Alex Len was suspended for this game for leaving the bench during a skirmish in Wednesday's Suns-Grizzlies game.
The Bulls had a tough sequence early in the fourth quarter. Trailing by 9 points, they had a 2-on-1 fast break, but rookie Denzel Valentine threw a high fastball of a pass that Doug McDermott couldn't handle. It bounced off his hands and was stolen for a turnover.
A few seconds later, Jared Dudley drained a 3-pointer to put the Suns ahead 92-80. Valentine followed by missing 2 free throws, but then hit a couple shots in a row for his first points of the night. A couple minutes later, the Phoenix lead was 17 and kept growing.
With plenty of young legs on the floor, the Suns usually turned Bulls' mistakes into quick points. Devin Booker scored 27 points and Bledsoe had 23. Booker, 20, recently became the youngest player ever to record 16 consecutive 20-point games, a streak that ended Monday.
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