Suns’ Kevin Durant and Devin Booker overwhelming the Bulls in the 4th quarter

5 observations: Bulls overwhelmed by Durant, Suns late originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

In just his second game with the Phoenix Suns, Kevin Durant delivered a masterful performance Friday night at the United Center.

The Chicago Bulls led at halftime thanks to a 16-1 run to wrap up the first half and were just six points behind with just over 9 minutes left. But the Suns ran and hid en route to a 125-104 blowout that dropped the Bulls two games short of the play-in race with just 18 to play.

Here are 5 observations:

1. In a nod to Durant’s greatness, coach Billy Donovan again switched his starters, substituting Patrick Williams for Alex Caruso. It’s a matchup Williams has had before. No one can stop Durant individually, and the new Sun finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists in a surgical 31-minute outing.

“He is who he is,” Williams said. “I think everyone in the league knows it. Everyone who’s not in the league knows it. He’s a household name. He’s been very good for a very long time. I think everyone knows what he’s doing.”

Whenever the Bulls boxed Durant, he simply moved the ball to the open teammate. Devin Booker finished with 35 points. Josh Okogie added 25, including five 3-pointers.

“We just felt like trying to give him some weight with Patrick and sending help when we need it and getting Alex (Caruso) to come in and play Booker because Booker is a guy who’s overwhelmingly the whole first and third quarter plays,” Donovan said. “With as much screening action as Booker gets away with, Alex is probably a better matchup.”

2. The 3-point difference that has plagued the Bulls all season played out again.

At one point, the Suns had as many makes with 17 as the Bulls had tries. Overall, the Bulls finished minus 39 from across the arc. The Suns more than doubled the Bulls’ attempts, finishing 20-47 while the Bulls went 7-23. Durant himself had six 3-pointers.

“I think we need to take more 3s. We need to change our shooting profile when you’re up against an elite offensive team,” Donovan said. “I think it’s important to go downhill and spray it out when we can.”

The Bulls are the NBA’s 30th team in both 3-point attempts with 28.6 and 10.3 points.

“The only way to overcome that is to either get a tremendous amount of offensive rebounds or get to the free throw line,” Donovan said. “We managed to get to the free-throw line. But we weren’t an elite offensive rebound team.”

3. Speaking of offensive rebounds, the Bulls’ defensive rating surge was fueled in part by their elite defensive rebounds and limiting opponents’ damage at second chances. Not so against the Suns, the second time this issue has arisen since the All-Star break.

Phoenix grabbed 13 offensive rebounds and scored 20 fewer points. Jock Landale was most active with four offensive boards and at one point frustrated Nikola Vucevic. Donovan pointed to the need for the cops to send traps on Durant and Booker as one of the culprits.

“Chris (Paul), Booker and Kevin are all willing passers and trying to play in the right way. So when doubled they don’t try to shoot out of doubles teams. You throw it out. So what happens now is you rotate,” Donovan said. “And a lot of times we’d have our center at the back, whether it was Andre (Drummond) or Vooch that had to make the next rotation to the corner. And a lot of the time it was in that corner he’s a good shot on the opposite corner. So you can’t just challenge him to shoot. So now Landale or (DeAndre) Ayton come on the basket to do an offensive rebound against some of our guards. But we had to do it instead of Kevin and Letting Booker play place one on one.”

4. The Bulls actually played a hard-fought game. They didn’t turn the ball over, with just nine errors. They shot 25 free throws. They assisted on 24 of 39 field goals and shot 47 percent. Aside from the 3-point difference and offensive rebounds allowed, no stat line jumped out.

Phoenix could be that good.

“In my opinion, they will only get better. This is only the second game they’ve played together,” Donovan said. “I think they are top 10 offensively at the moment. And I think adding Kevin will only increase that number. They have the talent and ability to be as good as any offensive team in this league. Chris has it “I don’t take a lot of shots. But he’s an elite 3-pointer. He picks his points. But (Damion) Lee shoots it. Cameron Payne shoots it. They all shoot a good percentage. They shoot around these guys, so if you send two there, it’s going to be difficult.”

5. The Bulls now sit a full two games behind the play-in picture with just 18 games left. They also lead by just one game ahead of the 12th-place Indiana Pacers, who visit the United Center on Sunday.

Coming off the All-Star break, DeMar DeRozan said the Bulls need to treat every game like a seventh game. Aside from a fourth-quarter meltdown against the Detroit Pistons in which they still had one win, the Bulls fared better in terms of play with power and aggression.

But the end of this game, albeit against a potential elite team, can stick with one team. DeRozan said avoiding that is his message until Sunday matinee.

“We have to find a rhythm here, but we can’t look at the full spectrum of it,” DeRozan said. “We have to take care of Sunday now. We need him. Now that we’ve taken care of that, we need to figure out what’s next. understand what lies ahead.”

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