Bench scores 50 as Suns defeat Bulls
PHOENIX — Every game is still a struggle for the young Suns.
But as they learn to share the ball and trust each other under interim coach Jay Triano, the results are improving.
TJ Warren scored nine of his 27 points in the fourth quarter and the Suns’ bench contributed 50 points in a 113-105 win over the Chicago Bulls on Sunday night.
Devin Booker had 15 points and reserves Mike James and Troy Daniels combined for 29 as the Suns (7-11) won their second straight and beat the Bulls for the third time in the last four tries. At one point in the second half, the bench accounted for 23 consecutive points.
“Everyone is starting to figure out where they are supposed to be and we’re passing the ball a whole lot better,” Triano said. “I think we’re getting better and more familiar with each other.”
Phoenix had a season-high 32 assists — the Suns are averaging 29 over the last three games — and five different players had at least four. Booker had six assists, James five to go with 15 points and Phoenix had a 64-40 edge on points in the paint.
“It’s fun to play that way, to see the ball move and everyone get involved,” Warren said. “People are getting in the paint, drawing defenders and getting the ball to the right guys. Now we know we’re capable of doing it, so it’s a matter of doing it consistently.
Rookie Lauri Markkanen had a career-high 26 points and added 13 rebounds for Chicago (3-11), which missed a chance to win back-to-back games for the first time this season.
The former University of Arizona star hit 10 of 18 shots from the floor.
“It was the first time back at all after April, so it feels good to be here,” Markkanen said.
Kris Dunn had 17 points and Robin Lopez added 16 points and 10 rebounds.
“Lauri was phenomenal, but we’ve got to find him when he’s on a roll like that,” Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We took a lot of rushed and contested shots after a really good offensive performance in the last game.”
Chicago was within a point at 91-90 on a Dunn jumper with 9:36 left. But the Suns gained control with a 17-7 run, with Warren scoring the final six on a two jumpers and a putback dunk that made it 108-97 Phoenix with 3:07 left.
The Bulls got back within 108-105 and had the ball with 1:13 left by Dunn’s wild behind-the-back pass sailed into the crowd was the first of back-to-back turnovers that ended any comeback hopes.
“That just can’t happen with two open guys over there,” Hoiberg said. “Two of our better shooters and we throw it out of bounds. Then next possession we had another open shooter and couldn’t make the play. That just can’t happen if you want to win a game like this on the road.”
The Bulls, who scored a season-high 40 points in the fourth quarter of a win over the Charlotte Hornets on Friday, picked right up offensively with 37 first-quarter points against the Suns. Lopez had 10 points and five rebounds and Markkanen had seven of his 16 first-half points as the Bulls closed out the quarter with a 10-4 run to take a 37-30 lead.
The second quarter, though, was all Suns. They held the Bulls to 19 points and took the lead with a 10-0 run. Warren had eight of his 12 first-half points and capped the run with a layup to give the Suns a 54-48 lead with 2:42 left.
Phoenix, which tied its previous season high with 28 assists in a win at the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, had 18 assists on 25 baskets to lead 61-56 at the half.
The Suns stretched their lead to as many as eight in the third quarter before the Bulls rallied with an 18-5 run and took an 84-79 edge on a Bobby Portis 7-footer with 2:17. But Daniels and Josh Jackson each had 3-pointers in the final 1:08 of the third, and Phoenix took an 85-84 lead to the fourth quarter.
NOTES: Bulls F Nikola Mirotic, out since Oct. 17 with a concussion and maxillary fractures, is being fitted with a mask, although there is still no target date for his return, coach Fred Hoiberg said. ... Chicago G Zach LaVine, who has missed the first 14 games rehabbing his left knee, is on track to practice for the first time Monday, when the Bulls are in Los Angeles to play the Lakers. ... Suns G Devin Booker has 30 or more points in seven of his first 17 games this season. Going into Sunday, only Kristaps Porzingis of the Knicks had more (eight). ... F Lauri Markkanen scored 192 points in his first 13 career games, the most by a Bulls rookie since Derrick Rose (245) in 2008-09.