Tag Archives: Phoenix Suns

Note-A-Bulls: Bulls put up another stinker in blowout loss to the lowly Suns

The Bulls have been teetering on the edge of a downward spiral in their last seven games, somehow squeaking out a record of 3-4 by holding on to victory against the Kings after Sacramento mounted a tremendous comeback, and besting the Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s going to be a tall task from here on out for the Bulls to maintain their composure and try to sneak into the playoffs, especially with their difficult upcoming schedule.

Tonight, the Bulls had a minor respite against a struggling Suns team, who had lost eight of their last nine games, and came in with a pitiful record of 16-37, the worst in the West. But all did not go according to plan, as the Bulls made things harder on themselves, losing 115-97 in Jimmy Butler’s first game back from a heel injury.

  • The Bulls started off looking pretty good, getting contributions from Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic, building a 25-16 lead, but a 12-1 run by the Suns to end the quarter saw it quickly disappear. The Bulls had a similar meltdown at the end of the second quarter, surrendering a 17-4 run to go into halftime with a 13 point deficit, 56-43. They tried to close the gap to start the third quarter, beginning with a 9-2 run, but they could not sustain it, quickly down 13 again midway through the period and would never recover from there on out.
  • On their fifth straight road game, the lethargy was showing. In the first half, Phoenix outscored the Bulls 11-2 on fast break points, weren’t able to bang down low resulting in a 30-12 margin, and relinquished 13 points off turnovers while amassing just eight themselves.
  • It was clear the absence of play due to the heel injury was affecting Butler. He scored 20 points but was just 6-20 from the field. He was able to get to the line for eight points but could not connect from beyond the arc in three attempts, and posted just three rebounds.
  • Robin Lopez had a very respectable game, with the only positive +/- on the team in 23 minutes of play. He was aggressive on offense, going five for nine with 12 points and securing five offensive boards to keep Bulls possessions alive. The Bulls couldn’t do much with those extra possessions, but RoLo did his part.
  • Dwyane Wade came back from an illness that sidelined him against Golden State and although he didn’t have a very efficient game (7-16 from the field), his off the ball movement was on point, putting up 18 points with a few backdoor cuts resulting in dunks.
  • Jerian Grant was awarded the starting point guard role, but didn’t score his first points until a three ball with four minutes remaining in the third quarter. It would be his only points for the game. As the backup point guard, Rajon Rondo continued to struggle with the worst +/- on the team with -17 in 23 minutes. He had just three points, four rebounds, and three assists.
  • As a team, the Bulls shot just 43% for the game. This wasn’t helped by a continued struggle from three point range, connecting on just 5-19 for a paltry 26.3%. For the season, they’re still dead last in the league, at 31.5%. Fortunately, for the Bulls, they were going up against another struggling three point shooting team – the Suns are 25th in the league at 34.1%. Unfortunately, the Suns exceeded their season average by hitting eight threes, good for 42.1%.
  • Devin Booker is really impressive on this Suns team. He’s a young star who we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the years to come. The backcourt of Booker and Eric Bledsoe combined for 50 points on 50% shooting with a +32, dominating the minutes sheet with 33 apiece.
  • Up Next: The Bulls wrap up their six game road trip in Minnesota against Tom Thibodeau’s Timberwolves on Sunday. The Suns travel to Houston to play the Rockets on Saturday for a back-to-back.
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BULLet Points: Suns beat the buzzer after Bulls cough up a big lead

Twice in a row, the Bulls have faltered in crunch time and lost a very winnable game. After Saturday’s loss, I expected to see a different kind of performance from the Bulls tonight. For at least one quarter of the game, they looked like they would beat the Suns pretty easily. Then, thanks largely to a huge outpouring from Brandon Knight, Phoenix eroded the lead Chicago had built in the third quarter, ultimately winning on an absurd final shot from Mirza Teletovic. The Suns won 103-101 as the Bulls dropped to 11-7.

  • After Saturday’s game, I mentioned that Tony Snell’s presence on the offense had all but evaporated. He was still in the starting five, but barely contributing to the team in any sort of productive or meaningful way. He was like a different player on Monday against Phoenix. He nearly doubled his minutes from Saturday, and deservedly so. Snell put up 10 points and had 2 rebounds and an assist. Most notably, he finished the night at a +13. He was effective in transition, and even on plays where he didn’t score or get the assist, he helped create scoring opportunities. Let’s hope he continues this kind of play.
  • Prior to the start of the game, CSN shared that the Bulls have averaged about 27 points in the first quarter in games that they go on to win, and just 22 in games that they go on to lose. This didn’t hold true against the Suns, as they scored 30 in the first quarter but went on to lose anyway. Still interesting.
  • The Bulls utilized an extremely strong third quarter to make it appear as if they were going to run away with this one easily. They went on a 7-0 run in the first 1:45 of the second half and outscored the Suns 26-10 in the third quarter. Unfortunately, they allowed 42 points in the fourth to eradicate the healthy lead that they had built.
  • The final period is proving to be a problem area for the Bulls, particularly in these losses; they’ve allowed 72 points in the past two fourth quarters. It may be something that Fred Hoiberg will need to work actively to address if it continues. The Suns are young and talented, but they should never be able to score 42 points on the Bulls in any quarter.
  • Speaking of the fourth, Brandon Knight was the catalyst for the Phoenix win. He had been largely a non-factor until that point, but finished with 21 points. He was also 6/7 from the free throw line, providing key points in the final minutes of the game. The Suns built on an 11-2 run in the beginning of the fourth quarter to chip away at the Bulls’ lead before Mirza Teletovic made a ridiculous putback jumper with 0.3 seconds remaining.

  • Really, this was yet another game that it feels like the Bulls just let get away. And, even worse than Saturday’s game against the Hornets, they allowed a very comfortable lead to be snatched way in the final quarter. The Suns were 8-13 going into this game, and again I have to wonder about the Bulls’ habit of “playing down” to teams that are not as talented.
  • Coming up: the Bulls will have a tough matchup in their next game, as they head to Boston to take on the 12-9 Celtics. They’ll return home to the United Center the very next night for another difficult game against the Clippers, so buckle in.

BULLet Points: Butler’s 32 leads Bulls to victory in Phoenix

  • The Bulls got off to a fantastic start in this one,  at one point going up nearly 20 in the first half. Eric Bledsoe and the Suns made things interesting, but the Bulls led virtually the entire game en route to a 103-97 victory.
  • Jimmy Butler had a season-high 32 points and really took over late. He played the entire fourth quarter and a Thibs-ian 43 minutes. He finished with six rebounds, two assists and a steal on 11/23 shooting. He’s now averaging 20.4 points on the season with extremely similar shooting splits to last season’s breakout campaign.
  • With Derrick Rose out due to an ankle injury, Fred Hoiberg went with Kirk Hinrich as a starter. Captain Kirk (the #gritgod) came up big, scoring 14 points on absurd 6/7 shooting with six assists in 24 minutes. In classic Kirk fashion, though, this was his only missed shot:

  • Aaron Brooks had a solid 12 points and five dimes in 20 minutes off the bench, but he pulled his hamstring pretty badly and eventually had to leave the game. I don’t love that the Bulls brought Brooks back after he clearly suffered a fairly serious muscle pull; he had to leave the game again for good and is now out for tomorrow’s matchup with Golden State. The Bulls deserve credit for safely handling Rose’s ankle injury in game, but this was a mistake.
  • Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson both had good nights and once again closed the game together. Gasol scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 28 minutes while Gibson had six points and seven boards in 27 minutes. If Gibson is going to continue seeing crunchtime minutes over Niko Mirotic, you have to wonder if we’ll see another shake-up to the starting lineup soon. Seemingly everyone outside the Bulls organization is clamoring for Niko and Joakim Noah to play together, which could be easily managed by moving Gibson into the starting group.
  • Speaking of Mirotic, he continues to badly struggle on the offensive end. He went 4/12 with 10 points in 21 minutes, though he did knock down 2/5 from long range. His presence is still providing the Bulls with acres of floor space–most noticeable in his +6.9 on floor net rating. Opponents are struggling to figure out his game, falling for pump fakes and committing too many fouls. Soon, though, teams will figure his shtick out if the shots aren’t falling consistently. Mirotic’s value is derived from his ability to stretch the floor from a frontcourt position; I’m starting to worry that his highly unconventional shot mechanics may never yield a consistent shooter.
  • Doug McDermott had a pretty solid game off the bench, adding eight points and a +5 in 25 minutes. He also provided the funniest highlight of the game:

  • While Tony Snell has struggled to make any impact on the offensive end this season, the Bulls have played far better with him on the court. He led the team with a +9 despite missing all three of his shots. Now in his third season, Snell has gotten better at using his length to disrupt opponents defensively. The Butler-Snell combination could yield Chicago its strongest defensive wing pairing since Luol Deng and Ronnie Brewer were at their peaks.
  • Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe combined for 44 points and 11 assists. They’re an entertaining backcourt pairing, and the Suns look like a solid threat for the bottom of the West playoff bracket. PJ Tucker annoyingly had his best game of the season, scoring 20 points with seven boards. A lot of fun bench guys got run, including Mirza Teletovic, Alex Len, Devin Booker, and Archie Goodwin.
  • Coming up: the Bulls continue the circus road trip on Friday night as big underdogs in Golden State against the defending champions, who are 12-0. If you recall, the Bulls handed the Warriors one of their two home losses last season. Quick note: Golden State is insanely, mind-bogglingly good on both ends of the floor. Steph Curry is one of the most unique players in NBA history and a joy to watch. Do yourself a favor and watch this next game, even if the Warriors win big. They could win 73 games.

Free Agency Bonanza Podcast with Jake Weiner & Jeff Berest

(D)Roses and Thorns contributors Jake Weiner and Jeff Berest connected to talk about the 76ers recent moves and a whole lot about all the free agency news. Including Danny Green, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap, Greg Monroe, Khris Middleton, Brandon Knight, Wes Matthews, Tyson Chandler, LaMarcus Aldridge and much more. And of course, Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy Jr. may have come up.

Making Sense of Trade Deadline MADNESS

This past Thursday was the most amazing trade deadline in years for us basketball junkies. So much occurred in the 11th hour before the clock hit 3:00 PM EST. Twitter was a tweeting as deals were being reported left and right and everything was coming at us at once. All of this was really hard to digest right away, and still a few days later it’s not entirely clear what every team was thinking. So here’s your guide through what actually went down, and why.

Before we get to the “nitty-gritty” and the game of “point guard roulette” that was played, lets quickly recap all the minor trades that transpired. I’m going to skip over the really inconsequential moves because nobody wants to hear my rambling thoughts on Pablo Prigioni going from New York to Houston, or why Ramon Sessions was traded for the 147th time. Here we go…

Celtics acquire Isaiah Thomas from Suns for Marcus Thornton and a 2016 first-round pick from the Cavaliers

Why did it happen?

The Celtics have been pretty fond of Isaiah Thomas dating back to last off-season. Danny Ainge saw an opening to get him and in exchange gave away one of their many future 1st round picks. The Celtics are the most “un-tanky” of all the “tankiest” teams in the league (those are words now). Boston is really not helping themselves only being bad enough to secure the somewhere around 11th pick in lottery. Suns pick up a future asset and cut their losses with the ill-fated Thomas signing.

76ers trade K.J. McDaniels to Rockets for Isaiah Canaan and 2015 second-round pick

Why did it happen?

K.J. McDaniels is on a goofy one year deal and because of his play this year some team is likely to give him an offer sheet that the Sixers aren’t interested in paying. Further, many in Philadelphia are saying that Sam Hinkie doesn’t really want to deal with K.J.’s agent after botching the initial contract negotiations. Plus the Sixers really like Isaiah Canaan and have tracked him since last year’s draft, and now have an obvious void at PG. Houston grabs another wing player who can defend really well and could see minutes in the playoffs.

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Brooklyn sends Kevin Garnett to Minnesota for Thaddeus Young

Why did it happen?

Flip Saunders is a genius, and when I say genius, I mean he makes other GM’s look like geniuses. T’Wolves traded a first round pick for 50 games of Thad Young, and then traded Thad so they could have a family reunion with the corpse of KG. Now they may want to extend the contract of said corpse. Flip you continue to amaze us all.

Trail Blazers acquire Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee from Nuggets in exchange for Will Barton, Victor Claver, Thomas Robinson and a lottery-protected 2016 first round draft pick

Why did it happen?

Blazers get a key pickup in Afflalo who can provide scoring off the bench, something Portland needs desperately. Only costs them a future first rounder, and likely a pick that will land between 22-30. Nuggets who are now in a rebuild, acquire an asset.

All of this brings us to one of the biggest trade deadline clusterf&*%s we’ve ever seen…let’s dive into it.

In three-team trade, the Thunder acquire Enes Kanter and Steve Novak from the Jazz for Kendrick Perkins, Grant Jerrett and two draft picks (one from the Pistons); Oklahoma City also receives D.J. Augustin and Kyle Singler from Detroit for Reggie Jackson.

Why did it happen?

Let’s start with the Jazz. Kanter publicly announced he wanted out, Utah obliged and picked up some future draft picks. The Jazz are eager to start the Rudy Gobert era, and losing Kanter probably won’t haunt them. Detroit upgraded the PG position in hopes to squeeze into one of the final playoff spots in the East this season and prepare for the future. Reggie is for sure an upgrade from Augustin, and they could choose to resign him this off-season as an insurance policy if Brandon Jennings recovery is stunted. But that is something Stan Van Gundy will have to attend to later. They desperately want to make the playoffs, that’s why the deal went down.

Which brings us to OKC, who is a clear winner in this trade. They discarded an unhappy Reggie Jackson for a low post threat in Kanter, as well as some solid bench pieces in Augustin, Singler, and Novak. This gives OKC a really deep roster which could spur them to a title run this year. Augustin can definitely hold his own as a backup PG; Kanter at times is a very gifted low post scorer and may command double teams on some nights. They also acquire two lights-out three point shooters that could hit some big shots during the playoffs with so much defensive attention constantly going towards Durant and Westbrook.

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In three-team trade, Suns send Goran and Zoran Dragic to Heat in exchange for Danny Granger and two draft picks, while also acquiring John Salmons from Pelicans; New Orleans gets Norris Cole, Justin Hamilton and Shawne Williams from Miami.

Why did it happen?

Dragic was emphatic over the displeasure he had with the Suns front office, and basically forced Phoenix’s hand to deal him before the deadline passed. Pat Riley savvily stole Dragic for essentially nothing: some fringe NBA players and future first round picks that Riley himself will probably never be in office to select. Miami’s league-worst stable of point guards was their one true weakness now that Hassan Whiteside has emerged as the reincarnation of Alonzo Mourning.

Acquiring Dragic, who was second team All-NBA last season, was such a huge acquisition for Miami that for a short 24 hours they perhaps were a dark horse title contender before Chris Bosh’s scary blood clot issue was discovered. But Miami will likely be able to resign Goran during the offseason and could potentially compete in 2016. More importantly, Bosh will be okay. So the Suns acquire more future picks and rid themselves of an unhappy Dragic. They also receive Danny Granger and John Salmons, who both could be waived or just wither away on the bench for the rest of the season. New Orleans get a warm-blooded backup PG in Norris Cole, which is something they need if they are to beat out OKC for the eight spot, though it is highly unlikely. Jrue Holiday’s injury is taking a turn for the worse, and you really can’t have Tyreke Evans playing 40 minutes a night at the point.

In three-team deal, Bucks send Brandon Knight and Kendall Marshall to Suns in exchange for Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee; Additionally, Phoenix sends their protected 2015 first-round pick from the Lakers to 76ers, and Philadelphia sends Michael Carter-Willams to Milwaukee

Why did it happen?

This was clearly the most shocking trade of the whole deadline. The Bucks imploding their frontcourt and trading their leading scorer during a playoff run is not a strategy many teams subscribe to. The Bucks must have felt that impending restricted free agent Brandon Knight was worth more to the open market this summer than he was to their organization. Milwaukee is not interested in paying a dollar figure potentially between $12-15 million that Knight will command this summer. So instead they swap in Michael Carter-Williams who is at least under team control for two more years.

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The problem is they’re swapping Knight for possibly the worst shooter in the entire league. They do gain a 6’6″ point guard and now have a stable of players who are extremely long and can defend multiple positions. Jason Kidd likely sees a lot of himself in MCW and must feel that he can work with him to fix his woeful jump shot.

The Bucks definitely improve on defense, but will now really struggle to score the ball in the halfcourt and don’t really have someone to go to in crunch time. That will really hinder them this season, but going forward with Jabari Parker and the Greek Freak, they will surely be an interesting team to watch. They also acquire Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis to add more bodies to an already deep bench.

The Suns get a pretty good replacement for Goran Dragic in Brandon Knight. Dragic is much better than Knight, but Knight may fit better into the Suns guard dominated offense. Knight is much more a combo guard than Dragic was and can be a prolific scorer. The duo of Bledsoe and Knight seems like a more natural fit than the Bledsoe and Dragic duo, because Knight can easily transition into the 2 spot. They painted themselves in a corner when they alienated Dragic and were forced to deal him and try and get some value before he became a free agent this summer. Phoenix really screwed this up, but Brandon Knight could pay dividends for the Suns eventually.

What won’t pay dividends is the idiotic move to trade the Lakers top five protected pick to Philadelphia. It’s just insane to let that pick go. They must have proposed multiple deals not involving the Lakers pick before they eventually caved to Milwaukee and Philadelphia’s demands. Losing the pick is bad, but losing Dragic and getting nothing return is worse. So they downgraded from Dragic to Knight and let go of an asset that had the potential to land them a future star this summer. Wow. That’s some Flip Saunders-like ineptitude.

So here’s what the Sixers and Sam Hinkie were thinking when they dealt away the “current” face of the franchise. The Sixers are not in the business of trying to become average; they’re trying to reach greatness. To the Sixers, MCW was just an average prospect who may have hit his ceiling. They did not view him as a future cog going forward; he plays the deepest position in the entire league and is 100% replaceable in their eyes.

Another reason for ditching MCW is that his numbers are inflated because of the run ‘n’ gun style the Sixers play, they have more offensive possessions than most teams. He also constantly has the ball in his hands and only shoots 38% from the field, and 26% from three (I just threw up in my mouth reading those numbers). His numbers are just awful by any standards for a starting guard in this league.

The Sixers want to develop a team around stars and MCW is never going to be one. By acquiring the Lakers’ protected pick, they are just giving themselves another opportunity to hit the lottery and draft a potential building block. They don’t really feel like they are taking a huge step back by shedding MCW either. By draft, trade, or free agency, the Sixers are constantly seeking the right opportunity to nab a superstar. Hinkie himself is one of the guys who orchestrated the James Harden trade. That is a type of scenario that they will be looking for moving forward, besides just drafting talent. Remaining flexible by staying way under the salary cap and gathering tons of valuable assets is what will make the Sixers a desired trade partner when a star from another team becomes available.

It’s not often those types of draft picks like the Lakers’ become available. It has the potential to be great, and the Sixers were selling high on MCW. Especially considering he’s a PG who can’t shoot and whose only viable trait is his height. All of this trying to acquire and develop around stars is easier said than done, I realize. But what the Sixers want to do is build something that will last not just a few years, but possibly for a decade or longer. The Sixers management is dedicated to building something special and you can begin to see through the mist if you squint really hard. The Hinkie strategy may seem outrageous to many and logical to few, but on Thursday they made the easy decision.