Stop me if you've read this script before. The Phoenix Suns jumped out to a 15-point first half lead, allowed the opponent (Chicago Bulls) to come all the way back, and then closed out the win with a strong fourth quarter finish mostly behind Markieff Morris' shotmaking and P.J. Tuckers rebounds.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
The Suns overcame a Bulls comeback in the third quarter to post a big win to finish their home stand at 6-2 with one game left in a 10-4 month of January.
The whole game was guarded affair.
The Bulls big men - Pau Gasol (19) and Joakim Noah (11) - combined for 30 rebounds. The Suns big men - Markieff Morris (14), P.J. Tucker (7) and Alex Len (8) - combined for 26 rebounds.
Gerald Green did not play in the game. No news as to why, yet.
Let's hope the Suns come out firing after hearing thousands of Bulls fans in the audience cheering on the starting lineup announcements. Got a feeling this could be a real bipartisan crowd.
Alex Len got the Suns first score on a put back, something they haven't often gotten in the past against Joakim Noah's length.
But it was really Pau Gasol's show most of the first quarter as he tried to eat up Alex Len on every possession. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Gasol would have scored nearly every time by forcing his way into the paint but missed some free throws after the Suns bailed him out a couple times.
The pace of the opening quarter was fast and furious, with each team running when they could and shooting early in the clock. The Suns were aided by the Bulls missing all 7 of their first quarter free throws, marking the difference in scoring and lead.
The score was tied 23-23 until Isaiah Thomas made a three pointer from the coach's box way way past the three point line.
The Suns finally took their first free throws (Brandan Wright) with 9:46 left in the second quarter. Just not drawing enough contact until then.
Soon after, Markieff stepped in for Miles Plumlee to get the spacing/offensive threat back and the Suns went on a good run. On Marcus' shotmaking and some good hands on defense to get steals and rebounds, the Suns created some separation by getting up 13 (40-25) and far outclassing the Bulls second unit.
The Bulls brought back in several starters just about the time the Suns took their foot off the focus gas, a bad combination that threatened to allow a relatively disinterested Bulls team right back into the game.
After a big fast break slam by Jimmy Butler, the Suns called timeout to the roar of the Bulls fans in attendance.
The Suns kept their 10-point lead for a while even though they lulled themselves into long jumpers that stopped falling while the Bulls drove to the rim for fouls/layups.
But then Keef drove hard (2 FTs), Dragic got an offensive rebound (Bled 3) and two fast breaks put the Suns back into a 14-point lead before the Bulls could take a breath. (51-37 Suns)
Good work, boys!
The quarter ended with the Suns leading 55-42, just barely missing a nicely set-up Dragic three just before halftime.
Suns leaders: Dragic with 15 points, 2 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks. Bledsoe with 12 points, 3 assists and a steal. Marcus had 7 points and Keef had 8 rebounds already.
No Gerald Green in the first half. No reason given by the team. Maybe he got a tech for arguing in pregame warmups?
The Suns began the third quarter with a strong start, but then Alex Len and Markieff Morris both drew their fourth fouls and had to go to the bench after only a few minutes.
Miles Plumlee came in with Brandan Wright, and basically rendered the Suns offense to drives by Dragic and Bledsoe.
Quite quickly, the Suns lead was cut to 4 behind some serious hustle by the Bulls. After playing three overtimes in the last two games this week, it doesn't seem sustainable that they could keep up the pace.
The Suns just kept laying bricks, letting the Bulls get back in the game. Not only were the Suns missing shots, they were missing jumpers and not drawing contact to get to the line. With Keef and Len on the bench with fouls, and Bledsoe resting, the Suns just had a hard time getting good shots.
It didn't help matters when Dragic missed a bunny layup and at the other end Gasol got a put back.
The Bulls actually took a one-point lead briefly at the end of the quarter on a Hinrich runner, but then Brandan was in the Wright place by getting Bledsoe's miss to put it back for the quarter-ending Suns lead after the Bulls missed a final shot.
The Suns went 6-for-22 in that quarter, but still lead 68-67.
The Morris brothers started the Suns off right in the 4th, scoring their first 9 points and helping the Suns stretch the lead to 6 at one point before a couple of... questionable Bulls possessions ended in scores.
The Bulls are just playing on effort and instinct at this point, but with a good, solid team like the Bulls its not a bad thing.
Finally, the Suns applied some of that hustle with a great steal by Bledsoe (getting 3 FTs on a breakaway foul) and couple of offensive rebounds in traffic to create another 2 FTs.
Markieff Morris capped it off with an FB slam off some nice defense on Pau, who stayed to complain to the refs while Bledsoe and Keef drove for the score.
The Suns had separation at that point,, forcing the Bulls to find a way to make yet another run on tired legs. Suns up 87-79 with 5 minutes left.
P.J. Tucker wouldn't let the Bulls back in the game, getting offensive boards ad defensive boards and... all the important boards, it seemed.
On the other end, the Suns energy on offense allowed them to keep scoring despite spirited effort by the Bulls.