PHOENIX --- The Chicago Bulls became the Phoenix Suns’ sixth straight victim Monday night at Footprint Center, falling 115-113 to begin their three-game trip in arguably the most entertaining game of the season.
The Suns have now won nine straight in this series.
Here are 10 observations:
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---The Bulls led by as many as 23 but endured close to a 13-minute stretch without an assist as ball movement dried up for awhile until some elite shotmaking late. For most of the game, the Bulls got whatever they wanted offensively. They became the sixth team this season to lose a 23-point lead.
"The firepower offensively they got, they're never out of the game," DeMar DeRozan said.
---The Suns only had nine second-chance points, but the last three proved killer. The Bulls led 111-110 and got a stop on Bradley Beal but couldn’t secure the 50-50 ball on the rebound. Drew Eubanks came up with it and fed Kevin Durant, who buried a 3-pointer with 29.5 seconds left. DeMar DeRozan tied it with his midrange magic. But Durant sank a ridiculously difficult double-clutch jumper with 1.6 seconds left.
"One of the greatest players in the game," DeRozan said. "You got to shake his hand, give him credit. It's incredible what he's able to do. But with that, we still had a chance."
DeRozan then missed a one-legged 3-pointer on an inbounds play with 1 second left. The shot recalled his late-game heroics from Indiana on New Year's Eve 2021 and followed a play in which the Suns, who had a foul to give, fouled Patrick Williams on a lob attempt off another inbounds play.
---Durant missed his first six 3-point attempts and was 4-for-16 at one point. But Donovan, who coached Durant in Oklahoma City, talked pregame about how Durant never shies from adversity or big moments. And Durant kept coming. He finished with a season-high 43 points on 16-for-32 shooting, hitting some ridiculous shots under contest. On his game-winner, both Alex Caruso and Patrick Williams contested the shot.
---The Bulls thought they had taken a three-point lead with a chance to make it four when DeRozan scored on a baseline jumper over Grayson Allen with 2:08 left and officials whistled Allen for a foul. But Suns coach Frank Vogel challenged the call and won, his second successful challenge of the game.
"That was bad in my opinion," DeRozan said. "I think that hurt us."
---Caruso, who tied his career-high with five 3-pointers, drew his fourth foul and exited with 7:31 left in the third and the Bulls leading 79-59. The Suns closed the quarter with a 24-11 run to make it a seven-point game entering the fourth quarter. Donovan said that stretch proved a turning point in the game, giving the Suns some momentum.
---The game got chippy in the third quarter. DeRozan took exception to Allen’s typical extracurricular silliness after one whistle. Drew Eubanks received a technical foul for shoving Coby White from behind. Andre Drummond then followed suit with his own technical when he took exception to a hard Eubanks foul and shoved him. Then, DeRozan attempted a power dunk over Eubanks that Durant blocked.
"Sometimes it makes it that much more exciting when it gets a little chippy," DeRozan said. "I love it. As long as it don't go too far and get carried away, a little chippyness is always good here and there."
Added White: "That's my guy. He played with [AAU team] CP3, so I've known him for a long time. I kind of fouled him hard. I knew I fouled him hard because of frustration. They were on a run. I just wanted to make sure I told him, 'My bad.' He understood."
---Coby White positively starred, falling one assist shy of his first career triple-double with 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. He also victimized the Suns twice on sublime hesitation stop-and-start moves, including strong defender Durant.
"He was amazing," DeRozan said.
---The trio of Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal improved to 8-4 when fully healthy, although they lost one of those games when Beal left in the first 5 minutes to injury.
“With them being whole now, the three of them on the floor together are head and shoulders the best offense in the league,” coach Billy Donovan said pregame.
---You couldn’t script a better offensive start by the Bulls. They assisted on their first 10 field goals, led by as many as 19 and shot 65.2 percent with seven 3-pointers in a 37-point first quarter. Making it even more impressive was the fact DeRozan didn’t even attempt a shot until the 1 minute, 26 second mark of the first quarter. Fittingly, DeRozan made it.
White posted 11 points and five assists in the first quarter, marking the first time in his career he has posted a quarter with at least 10 points and five assists. He also sank three deep 3-pointers in the first quarter alone.
---Ayo Dosunmu posted back-to-back steals late in the first half. After the first, he missed a good look on a short bank shot after sublime ball movement in transition. On the next, White streaked ahead of him but Dosunmu kept the ball for a dunk. The two shared a laugh afterward about Dosunmu not giving up the ball. Dosunmu finished with 13 points and two steals. In the second half, he scored over Durant in transition.