The Chicago Bulls were riding high into their Friday night home matchup against the Phoenix Suns, but walked off the floor at the United Center with their heads low. Late-game turnovers cost them their fourth-straight win.
Suns guards Devin Booker and Chris Paul combined for 36 points, 20 assists, and five steals in their 106-97 win.
After the loss, head coach Billy Donovan described the Bulls locker room as “hurting,” to reporters (via the Chicago Sun). Chicago tallied 17 turnovers on the night, one above their league-worst season average of 16.
I think the locker room is hurting. We just turned the ball over at an alarming rate. It broke our momentum.
Donovan praised Phoenix and starting point guard Paul for their ability to limit mistakes:
You know when you’re playing against a good team and certainly a point guard like Chris Paul, who is just not going to turn the ball over, those things come back and bite you. I think we had done a pretty good job most of the game taking care of the ball, but that fourth quarter, the number of turnovers, I think it was 10 we had just in the fourth quarter alone.
This loss makes for the ninth of ten games against winning teams for the Chicago Bulls.
Coby White Still Has a Lot to Learn from Chris Paul
Chicago’s second year point guard is having a strong sophomore campaign, but has a ways to go in the field of playmaking. Before Friday night’s game Coby White spoke with reporters about his relationship with Chris Paul, who as he often mentions, he looks up to like a big brother.
After the loss to Phoenix, the 21-year old made it clear he’s still got a lot to learn from the future Hall of Fame point guard. Talking with reporters (via Yahoo!Sports), White recognized Paul as a true floor general.
He just makes the right play. He controlled the game at the end. He came in and did what he was supposed to do. He was finding the open man. This is what he’s been doing his whole career.
The study of his idol goes back years, to when he was an early teenager, and it’s still got a ways to go.
Obviously, the way he manipulates actions and the way he mantipulates games, he’s just super smart. For me, I’ve been learning from him since I was 15, 16 years old. I’m going to continue to learn from him.
White finished with 19 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three turnovers in Friday’s loss.
Chicago’s Next Game Will Provide an Opportunity to Improve
After being dismantled at the hands of a future Hall of Fame point guard, it will be telling to see how this Bulls team rebounds in their next game. Chicago’s got a Sunday night matchup with the Toronto Raptors on tap.
Head coach Billy Donovan told reporters postgame (via Yahoo!Sports) that he thinks the Phoenix loss presents a learning opportunity for the team, particularly, their young backcourt.
I think there’s great teaching points not only for (White) but or our entire team. I think there are some great teaching points for Zach (LaVine). He had been so great this stretch of games making the right play when they trapped him getting off the ball, and he had some plays that I know he wished he would have had back.
Zach LaVine put up 24 points on nine-of-16 shooting (56%), but led the team with five turnovers on Friday. Among players that have suited it up for 25 or more games this season, LaVine has recorded the fourth-most turnovers (125), and is averaging the fourth most per game at 3.9, per NBA Stats.
If the Bulls can come out and not let one off night disrupt what has been an impressive streak of games lately, it’ll be an encouraging sign in regards to their hopes at a playoff berth. Friday’s loss drops their record to 15-17 on the season, and the ninth-seed in the Eastern Conference.
A loss to the fourth-seed Raptors won’t be a nail in anyone’s coffin, but another display of carelessness with the basketball could make for some sort of change in the lineup or on this roster. Toronto isn’t a flashy team by nature, but they will capitalize off mistakes you make on the offensive end.
But in a tight-knit East, playoffs are rarely going to be out of reach for the Chicago Bulls, provided they don’t let performances like Friday’s become a reoccurring event.