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Derrick Rose upbeat after Bulls lose 99-93 to Suns; ‘I’m getting there’

PHOENIX — One day after they lost to the lowly Lakers, the Bulls were looking at the bright side after losing to the Suns 99-93 on Friday night at U.S. Airways Center.

Trailing 95-86 with 1:46 to play, the Bulls got within 95-93 with 31 seconds left on a layup by Aaron Brooks. But Eric Bledsoe banked a short jumper with 10.9 seconds left and the Bulls (30-19) were saddled with their third loss in four games and ninth in the last 14.

But the Suns (28-20) are not the Lakers.

“We battled hard in the second half,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “The defense was really good. The effort was good. “The second half the discipline was much better and I thought we gave ourselves a chance to win and fell short at the end.”

Derrick Rose led the Bulls with 23 points, but was 8-of-23 from the field, including 0-of-6 on three-point shots. Jimmy Butler scored 22 points, but was 1-of-6 on three-pointers. Brooks added 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 3-of-5 three-pointers.

Pau Gasol had 10 points and 19 rebounds, but shot 5-of-14 from the field and 0-for-5 from the free throw line — a rare bad game at the line for the 82-percent free-throw shooter. Joakim Noah added nine points and 10 rebounds.

It was an uneven effort by almost every player but Brooks. But Thibodeau still was enthused by the team performance. The Bulls trailed by 16 in the first half and 60-45 early in the third quarter before rallying to take a 67-66 lead late in the quarter.

“Our starters along with Aaron did a really good job to put ourselves in position,” Thibodeau said. “Jimmy was really, really good. Pau was terrific rebounding. Jo’s got a good bounce to him. Those are plusses.

“We just talked about the trip [an overtime victory at Golden State and a double-overtime loss at the Lakers before losing to the Suns] — all three games were winnable games, they’re one- or two-possession games and you’ve got to find a way to get that done. Hopefully we can improve to get it done.”

Rose even was encouraged by what otherwise looked like another tough night in his return from two knee surgeries. He was more aggressive in attacking the basket, but didn’t get a lot to show for it.

“It’s coming,” he said. “I missed a lot of runners, layups and shot that I normally [make]. But as long as I’m attacking, it’s all positive.

“It’s just the second game we’ve played back-to-back, when I attacked the basket — that’s something that in the beginning of the season I wouldn’t have done,” Rose said. “So Im getting there. I just have to take my time.

Rose played 43 minutes against the Warriors on Tuesday, 42 minutes against the Lakers on Thursday and 36 minutes against the  Suns on Friday.

“These three games, they were tough games. I had to play a lot of minutes,” Rose said. “It was a load, but I’m happy with how my body feels afterwards. I’m happy with my performance. I’m mad that we lost, of course, but I try to get a positive out of myself from every game.”

Gasol had a tough night offensively, but likewise was encouraged by the team effort.

“Fatigue was a factor, no question. But we knew that. It wasn’t going to be an excuse,” Gasol said. “We gave ourselves a chance. It was probably a tougher game than we’ve played because we didn’t have much left in the tank. But we gave it a good shot.”

Bledsoe led Jeff Hornacek’s Suns with 23 points. Guard Goran Dragic scored 21. Markieff (14 rebounds) and Marcus Morris added 12 each.

The Bulls don’t play again until Wednesday against the Rockets in Houston.

“We know this team has spirit and potential. We just don’t do it consistently and we don’t do it every night,” Gasol said. “[It’ll take] determination, mentally and physically, to do our very best every night as a group. Once we do that consistently, we can be very good.”

Gasol was at a loss to explain his 0-for-5 performance at the line. Has it ever happened before?

“Never in my life. Never in my career,” he said.

Probably a fluke.

“I would hope so,” he said. “It was weird. What are you going to do? It happens.”