Porter sits out as Bulls end losing streak vs. Suns

By Mike McGraw

The Bulls are approaching the end and getting closer to the bottom.

After Monday's 116-101 victory in Phoenix, the Bulls are down to 10 games left in the regular season. And even though they gained ground on the Suns, the race for lottery position at the bottom of the standings is heating up.

Otto Porter Jr. missed the game because of a shoulder injury, but the Bulls were able to snap a five-game losing streak. Shaq Harrison, who was cut by Phoenix just before the season began, started in Porter's place.

"We won the boards, we had 13 turnovers," Bulls coach Jim Boylen told reporters after the game. "Those are huge stats for us that helped us win, I thought Shaq in the starting lineup did a great job, gave us a defensive presence with him and Kris Dunn, and I thought their pressure was terrific."

The Bulls got their second look at last year's No. 1 overall draft pick, Suns center DeAndre Ayton, who finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds.

Ayton has quick feet and a nice shooting touch, but defense is not a strength right now. Early in the game, the Bulls went to center Robin Lopez with success and he ended up scoring a team-high 24 points. Backup Cristiano Felicio also had one of his better games, finishing with 10 points and 8 rebounds.

The Bulls headed into this one with a five-game losing streak and a recent habit of not showing up for third quarters. This time, they took the lead for good at 8-6 and never let up after boosting the advantage to 19 points early in the second quarter.

Lauri Markkanen broke out of his slump a little bit, producing 17 points and 9 rebounds. Zach LaVine had a nice all-around game with 17 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. Dunn, who celebrated his 25th birthday on Monday, added 14 points.

Harrison had 4 steals and threw down a couple of emphatic dunks against his old team, The Bulls also got at least 6 points from all five guys off the bench.

"I thought it was great (for Harrison) to get to start here in Phoenix," Boylen said. "He's been shooting the ball better. He's a tough kid. He's a hard-playing kid and we're happy he played well.

"When I told him before the game he was starting, he was excited. I did not tell him today when I knew at noon, because I didn't want him to think about it all day. So I told him right before the game."

Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant watched the game from the front row and posed for a video with LaVine before the contest.

Porter told before the game he hurt his shoulder in the first quarter against Sacramento. There was no word on how long Porter might be sidelined.

"He took a blow to the shoulder and he's not feeling great, so we're going to sit him out and I don't have a time table for anything with that," Boylen said. "He's really sore."

The Suns were missing a pair of starters due to injuries, including Kelly Oubre Jr. and former Miami guard Tyler Johnson.

The standings could be significant because as it stands now, the Bulls own the league's fourth-worst record. The bottom three teams get a 14-percent chance at the top pick in the draft lottery. The fourth-worst team gets a 12.5-percent chance.

So no team has a great opportunity to land Duke's Zion Williamson with the top pick, but the chances improve slightly by finishing in the bottom three. The Bulls reached 20 wins with Monday's triumph. Cleveland picked up its 18th victory by beating Detroit on Monday, while Phoenix stayed at 17 wins. New York has the worst record, at 14-57 after a loss to Toronto on Monday.

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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Chicago Bulls guard Antonio Blakeney (9) dunks over Phoenix Suns forward Josh Jackson (20) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, March 18, 2019, in Phoenix. Associated Press
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