PHOENIX (AP)—Owner Jerry Reinsdorf has seen the Bulls win two in a row since he called his team a a “disaster” and “embarrassing.”
His critique seems to be getting results.
The Bulls their third straight on a Western trip, beating the Phoenix Suns 122-111 Saturday night.
On Friday, Reinsdorf said he would stand up and boo the team after watching some of their recent performances. Then the Bulls won in Sacramento for the first time since Michael Jordan was on the team.
“Whenever you can win, it builds confidence,” said coach Vinny Del Negro, returning to Phoenix for the first time since leaving the Suns after last season. “Now, there’s more of a comfort feeling on both ends of the court. It comes with familiarity with what we’re trying to do.”
The Bulls, who also defeated the Suns at Chicago earlier in the season, swept the season series from Phoenix for the first time since 1996-97. The loss gave the Suns their first losing month since April 2004.
Leandro Barbosa led the Suns with a season-high 32 points. Grant Hill scored 19, Shaquille O’Neal 18, Steve Nash had 15 points and 10 assists, and Amare Stoudemire and Jason Richardson each scored 12.
The Bulls have won nine of their last 10 games against above .500 teams.
Phoenix has lost three in a row at home for the first time this season.
“We’re playing with a lot more confidence,” said Gordon, who hit five 3-pointers. “Winning three in a row feels so different. It’s been a few years back, when we were in the playoffs.”
Rose, who sat out the final seven minutes after spraining his left foot on a couple of dunks, said, “We know we can win games if we play together.”
Rose said he would have treatment on his foot Sunday. “It should be fine,” he said. I just have to treat it.”
Suns coach Terry Porter was bitterly disappointed in his team’s performance.
“We talked about coming out and having energy and setting a tone, but we just didn’t do it,” Porter said. “At times, we just allowed those guys to keep building confidence, confidence and confidence. It was a disappointing loss for us.”
Chicago took advantage early of Phoenix’s inability to corral rebounds—the Bulls grabbed 10 on offense—and outscored the Suns 14-2 on second-chance points in the first half. Surprisingly, Rose, one of the smallest Chicago players, was the main man on the offensive glass, and even put one of his four rebounds back on a dunk. His 16-foot jumper just before the buzzer provided a 62-59 halftime margin. Rose finished the half with 14 points.
Meanwhile, Gordon showed why he is one of the league’s premier 3-point shooters, hitting all three of his long-range attempts and scoring 13 points in the half.
Barbosa helped bring Phoenix back from an 11-point second-quarter deficit with 17 points in the first two quarters, 14 in the second. But the Suns hurt themselves by missing six of 20 free throws.
Chicago built its lead to 13 points midway through the third period, but again the Suns came back, this time with a 12-2 run that cut the deficit to 82-79. But a tap-in by Tyrus Thomas just before the end of the period gave Chicago an 88-83 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Former world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali was a courtside spectator. … This was the midway point of the Bulls’ seven-game trip. They complete the tour with games at Houston on Tuesday, at New Orleans on Wednesday and at Dallas next Saturday. … Chicago is close to being on pace to set a franchise record for free throw percentage. Before facing the Suns, they were averaging .788 from the line; the record is .790 set in 1970-71. … The Bulls’ Drew Gooden missed his seventh straight game with a groin strain. … Nash is second on the league’s career free throw percentage accuracy list, just ahead of Rick Barry and behind Mark Price.