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Recap:

Both teams stumbled out of the gate trudging at a molasses pace. Neither team trailed by more than four in the period as the teams battled back and forth. Luis Scola got off to a hot start with 10 points, while Joakim Noah countered for the Bulls with six points and five rebounds. Score: Bulls 21, Suns 20.

The second quarter started with more of the same. I was struck with abulia while trying to decide whether the paucity of points was due to stagnant offense, pesky defense or a combination of both. Then something unexpected happened. Something as unexpected as getting struck by lightning three times on your way to collecting your money from winning the powerball twice in one week. Michael Beasley happened. Given an opportunity to see the light of day due to a hand injury to Jared Dudley, Beasley went for 14 points in the second quarter on 7-8 shooting and carried the Suns in the period. Scola also finished the half with 14, as the two were the only Suns with more than four points. Noah led the Bulls in scoring (8) and rebounding (5) at the half, but managed only two points and no rebounds in the second quarter. Score: Suns 49, Bulls 42.

Scola continued the torrid shooting he displayed in the first half. I don't understand why so many teams concede him open looks from 20 feet when he makes them with such proficiency. The usually stingy Bulls defense was being exploited by a Suns offense that has recently been anemic (to be kind). Inconsistent officiating led to the Bulls doing more complaining than hustling and it was clearly evident players like Tucker were in their heads. Scola led all scorers with 22 points. Boozer had collected a double-double after a strong third quarter. Score: Suns 77, Bulls 63.

The blowout was on. The Suns stretched the lead to as many as 19 twice and the Bulls never made it within the 14 they trailed by going into the quarter. Sebastian Telfair, Markieff Morris and Beasley put the Bulls out of their misery as Phoenix cruised to the easy victory. Score: Suns 97, Bulls 81.

Suns win.

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Player of the Game:

Michael Beasley. Michael finished with 20 points, on 10-14 shooting, and six rebounds. He was the Suns catalyst in the second quarter where the Suns took a lead on the Bulls and never looked back. It was easily one of his best handful of games as a Sun. He did have five turnovers, but I'm sure the Bulls never scored off of one anyway.

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Comments of the Game:

JO seems done.
He's been TERRIBLE recently.
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Who is this Beasley?
I like him much more than the Beasley we had all season so far. His suck defense is eclipsed by his offense.
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Seriously though.
It's gotten so bad as of late that I have zero faith this team is going to come out of the half and actually even keep this game close. Would love for them to prove me wrong, however, for it has gotten borderline depressing at this point with the ability the Suns have to just epically collapse towards the end of games this season.
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So wow. The Suns played basketball in the 3rd quarter.
Can they keep it up in the 4th?
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The Suns are like: What do we say to the God of losing?
Not today!
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Guess you can't lose them all.

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The Good:

The bench, which has been the bane of our existence recently, didn't come out and wet themselves in the second quarter. The Suns reserves actually outplayed the Bulls all night long behind several spectacular performances.

Michael Beasley. Give credit where credit is due. The much maligned Beasley, who has spent his recent games banished to the end of the bench, came out with a truculence that has been absent for most of the season. Or maybe he wasn't actually more aggressive and the shots just fell for a change. Either way, Michael lit it up in the second quarter and carried the Suns for the better part of his nine minutes on the court.

The Suns defense was consistent all night. The Bulls shot just 36.4% from the field and were only 2-10 from three point range while being held to 81 points. Suns were feisty and fearless, which led to the Bulls becoming disconcerted and discomposed. This was one of the best and most complete defensive performances of the season.

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The Bad:

Dragic with two more first quarter fouls. I need to find a way to track how many times he's done that this season. This time it was on a staggeringly bad decision to make an obvious foul from behind on Nate Robinson. It looked like an intentional foul. Not smart.

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The Ugly:

Nothing to report. When the Suns play like this they don't rack up uglies.

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Final Thoughts:

The Suns broke two losing streaks (12 on the road and five overall) on their way to their 2,000th win. My final thought is - Where the hell did this come from?! I am stunned that the Suns managed to win their third road game of the season in blowout fashion. In a season that has devolved into a battle for lottery positioning this game was a completely unanticipated surprise. Almost everyone who played contributed. What a solid overall victory! I actually felt proud of this team (tear rolls from eye).

I guess Jared Dudley has been holding us back this whole time.

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When: Saturday, January 12, 2013, 6:00 PM local time (8:00 EST)

Where: United Center, Chicago, IL

Watch/Listen: TV: FSAZ, Radio: 620 KTAR

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Last Meeting:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 in Phoenix

The Suns early season proclivity for amassing huge deficits and battling back to make games competitive was on display this night, as the Suns trailed by 18 before using a 31-17 fourth quarter to complete their comeback in regulation. PJ Tucker gathered the ball out of a scrum to tie the score at 100 and the game headed into overtime. The Suns appeared to have expended too much energy at this point and the Bulls rolled to a 112-106 victory.

Carlos Boozer had 28 points and 14 rebounds to help the Bulls pull away, but only scored two while the Suns made their comeback in the fourth. Luis Scola led the Suns with 24 points and 14 rebounds.

Team Bios:

Chicago Bulls: 20-14

Points per game: 93.9 (26th) Points allowed: 92.2 (3rd)

Injuries: Derrick Rose is out (torn left ACL), but is expected to return before mid-March. Kirk Hinrich has been nursing a sore elbow, but played in last night's victory over the New York Knicks.

The Bulls are a defense centric team that slows down the game (24th in pace) and wins with inexorable pressure that disrupts the offensive flow of their opponents. They play ugly, grind it out basketball. Despite their parsimonious nature on defense, the Bulls munificence on offense slots them at 6th in the league in team assists per game. The Bulls are also in the top half of the league in rebounding, rounding out a solid overall team.

Chicago is coming off recent road wins against the Miami Heat (96-89) and the Knicks (108-101 in a game that wasn't that close). The Bulls, who have won four of five, will look to continue their winning ways against the lowly Suns. Chicago will be playing on the back end of a back-to-back, just like the Suns, after a couple of players logged heavy minutes, topped by Luol Deng with 42.

Deng leads the Bulls in scoring with 17.9 points per game (he had a season high 33 last night). Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah complete a very competent frontcourt, but one that lacks great size and shot blocking. The Bulls backcourt is probably their weak spot, at least relative to the forwards and center, as the team awaits the return of their leader, Derrick Rose, later in the season.

Chicago Bulls team statistics.

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Phoenix Suns: 12-26

Points per game: 95.5 (19th) Points allowed: 100.2 (25th)

Injuries: Wounded spirit.

The Suns reach their last stop on a four game, five night eastern road swing. The losses have been progressively worse, culminating in last night's massive mortification. The second half against the Nets, where the Suns were outscored 53-26, ranked right near the top of the humiliation scale in what has become a forgettable (please let me forget) season. Check out my earlier recap for more grisly details.

The Suns enter tonight's matchup against the Bulls with a record of 2-17 on the road this season, including 12 consecutive road losses. If the Suns lose to Chicago they will be 2-18 which would put them on pace to go 4-37 for the full campaign. Four road wins. Four.

The Suns have been led by absolutely nobody Jared Dudley during the recent stretch that has seen them drop 11 of 12 games. Jared has averaged 14.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists over this period and has exuded dependability and composure. The rest of the starters haven't really been that bad either, but ironically the Suns appear to have sunken to new depths after inserting the whirling dervish, PJ Tucker, into the starting lineup and banishing Michael Beasley to the end of the bench. Every time the second unit steps onto the court I can sense a collective cringe from the fans.

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What To Watch For:

PJ Tucker vs. Luol Deng: Deng scored a season high 33 points last night, but logged heavy minutes (42) in the process. Tucker will be given the task of preventing a repeat performance tonight against the Suns.

Suns doing the scoring limbo: The Suns were limited to 77 points twice earlier in the season, a 103-77 loss at home to the Clippers and a 117-77 loss at the Pistons. The Suns have now scored 79 points in back-to-back games and are trudging and stumbling into their fourth game in five nights on the road. Is the stage set for the Suns to go low?

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Notes/Stats:

The Suns last win on the road was November 27th against the Cleveland Cavaliers. That was 47 days ago.

The Suns are 2-17 on the road and have lost 12 straight road games.

The Suns have lost 11 of 12 overall.

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2013 Lottery Watch

Last night's games of interest:

The Toronto Raptors (14-22) beat the Charlotte Bobcats (9-26) 99-78

The New Orleans Hornets (11-25) beat the Minnesota Timberwolves (16-17) 104-92 - the Suns are now tied with the Hornets for the fourth worst record in the NBA

The Detroit Pistons (14-23) beat the Milwaukee Bucks (18-17) 103-87

The Oklahoma City Thunder (28-8) beat the LA Lakers (15-21)

Tonight's matchups:

Orlando Magic (12-23) at the LA Clippers (28-8)

Atlanta Hawks (21-14) at the Washington Wizards (5-28)

Charlotte Bobcats (9-26) at the Indiana Pacers (22-14)

Utah Jazz (19-19) at the Detroit Pistons (14-23)

Memphis Grizzlies (24-10) at the Dallas Mavericks (14-23)

Miami Heat (23-11) at the Sacramento Kings (13-23)

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The Final Word(s):

The Suns have kept it interesting by continuing to find new ways to reveal their horrid nature as the season has progressed. Casual fans have largely tuned out by this point, much like several of the Suns players, but fans with an unhealthy obsession who truly love Suns basketball are welcome to join me in watching them make positive history (slim chance) by winning franchise game #2,000... or more likely try to set records of futility as this season descends into the ranks of worst ever.

Phoenix Suns 97, Chicago Bulls 81 Reeling from a second-half letdown at Brooklyn, the Suns will continue to look for answers on the fly out East. Solutions to the Suns’ road woes (2-17) or their...

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I could break down a play-by-play of the third quarter or second half, but a more succinct synopsis that precludes that necessity would be that the Suns got bent over a stump. Terse. True.

Here's what some of the players had to say about the brutal beatdown via Paul Coro's post game report:

Dragic: "We said at halftime, 'Let's not repeat the same mistakes.' Then somebody pushed the stop button and we stopped playing. Our chemistry and movement of the ball went downhill. We didn't find the rhythm. They're a great team with a lot of weapons, but that's no excuse. We took away our confidence. We missed some good shots. We were thinking, 'Uh-oh, it's happening again' if we miss, and our defense was terrible."

O'Neal: "We've had meetings. We've had pep talks. We've had multiple meetings with the owner. We've had multiple meetings with the coaches. We've had multiple meetings with the players. Are we going to win or lose? It's like living Groundhog Day every day. We're just not a very good team with responding."

And here's a delineation of futility this season per this nifty little chart:

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Special thanks to Kris Habbas for doing all the footwork on this table while I take all of the credit.

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Notes/Stats

Last night were the lowest point totals for the Suns in a third quarter (13) and in a fourth quarter (13) this season.

The Suns were outscored 53-26 in the second half. 26 points was the lowest total in a half this season. The franchise record for least points in a half is 25. It was the third worst second half margin this season (-27), the others were at Orlando (-31) and at Detroit (-29).

The Suns shot 5-20 (25%) in the third quarter and 4-18 (22.2%) in the fourth. For the second half the Suns were 9-38 (23.6%).

The Suns had more turnovers (10) than field goals (9) in the second half.

The 20 point loss was still only the fourth worst loss (by point differential) on the road this season.

The Suns are now 2-17 on the road this season.

The Suns have lost 12 games in a row on the road, which is the longest such streak since the 1983-84 season.

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So where does last night's savage beating rank in this season of futility and shame?

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The Phoenix Coyotes have been the fourth most popular major sports team in Phoenix since they moved from Winnipeg to the warm, sunny desert to promote a game played on ice. Imagine that's the reason it's fourth?

The Arizona Cardinals, despite being bad-to-mediocre for most of the last two decades, still drew big crowds even when they were playing outside in Sun Devil Stadium in 100+ degree heat.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have been up and down during their 14 years in the valley - from a high of winning a Super Bowl to a low of losing 100+ games - but they have at least drawn a consistent TV viewing audience (despite modest crowds) and remain a solid presence in the community and sports pages/sites.

But it was always the Phoenix Suns who dominated the hearts and dreams of valley sports fans for 6 or more months per year. The Van Arsdale brothers, Westphal, Hawkins and other from the 70s still have a warm place in fans' hearts.

The 80s featured Sweet D, drug scandals and eventually a rebirth in the form of Kevin Johnson and Tom Chambers.

Then the 90s gave us Charles Barkley and the Suns' second appearance in an NBA Finals - one of the best and most entertaining Finals ever played.

The 2000s gave us Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and three Western Conference Finals in six seasons.

But now the Suns are one of the worst teams in the league and game attendance is at an all-time low in the new arena (since 1992).

Across town, the NHL ended it's untimely lockout and now is ready to run through a shortened schedule, starting on January 19. The Coyotes have a smart front office that put together a playoff-caliber team on a shoe-string budget.

Carl Putnam over at SB Nation's Coyotes blog - Five for Howling - gives us 10 reasons it's time to focus on the Coyotes this spring over the struggling Suns.

One of the items on the list:

4. If there is one group of fans who know what it is like when an owner comes hires a player agent as GM it is fans of Phoenix's hockey club. You'll have plenty to talk about with your new found brethren.

Check out his list here, and give them a shout.

While I still love the Suns, I also like to watch quality sports play. And the Coyotes should be able to supply that.

But bring a jacket if you decide to watch them play a game at their Jobing.com arena.

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