Perfect night for Bulls’ rebuilding efforts in loss to Suns
PHOENIX — Bad night for the Bulls. Good night for the front office.
The team’s young pieces continued to sparkle, but their efforts weren’t enough to beat the Suns, another team in a rebuild.
In the Bulls’ 113-105 loss Sunday at the Talking Stick Resort, Kris Dunn was good, and Lauri Markkanen was great, scoring a career-high 26 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
There wasn’t much else of import that took place. The Bulls’ 11th loss continued to demonstrate the obvious: Dunn needs to be getting a majority of the point-guard minutes over Jerian Grant.
Coach Fred Hoiberg started Grant again, opting to bring Dunn off the bench with the second unit even though he scored a career-high 22 points in the Bulls’ victory Friday against the Hornets.
“We like him coming off and giving us a boost with that second unit, get him pushing the ball down the floor, and the biggest thing is his defensive presence out there on the floor,’’ Hoiberg said.
But Hoiberg did point out that Dunn didn’t start the last two games, but he was on the floor to finish them.
Considering Dunn scored 17 points against the Suns — to go along with six assists, six rebounds and two steals — it was no wonder that Hoiberg gave him a brief rest in the fourth quarter before sticking him back in there with just under six minutes left.
He’s an emerging piece in this rebuild, and it continues to look like Grant is on borrowed time as the starter.
“If [Dunn] continues to play like that, it’s going to be hard to keep him off the floor,’’ Hoiberg said.
But that also means Dunn can’t have turnovers, especially like he did late when it was a two-possession game and he threw a ball away with a behind-the-back pass.
“Throw a behind-the-back pass, that can’t happen,’’ Hoiberg said of the last minutes of the loss.
“Two key turnovers late, that just can’t happen if you want to win a game like this on the road.’’
Hoiberg also didn’t like the way Markkanen was overlooked in the fourth quarter, especially on several possessions in which they forced the Suns (7-11) into a switch, got a point guard on the 7-foot Markkanen, then went a different way.
“I thought Lauri was phenomenal, but when he’s open, we’ve got to get him the ball,’’ Hoiberg said.
Markkanen, however, was trying to look at it from both sides.
“It’s a game, so sometimes they see you, sometimes they don’t,’’ he said. “If they switch, that means there’s a mismatch on [our point guard], too, so we have to look at that, as well.’’
Robin Lopez had 16 points and 10 rebounds but also some questions for the officials.
With 5:19 left in the third quarter, Lopez appeared to be shoved down by T.J. Warren from behind, and he obviously didn’t take it well. The two had to be separated, with Warren earning a Flagrant 1 foul and Lopez getting a technical for allegedly hitting someone in the head during the incident.
“They told me that I got a technical because I hit somebody in the head,’’ Lopez said.
“I asked them if intent behind the hit mattered, and this time they said it did not. It doesn’t seem very consistent, but I’m going to save my money.’’
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