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Suns end road skid with win over Bulls

The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- The United Center has become the place to visit for teams looking to snap a losing streak.

Chicago was the victim when Charlotte ended an 18-game skid on Dec. 31. On Saturday, Phoenix ended a run of 12 straight road losses by beating the Bulls 97-81.

"Obviously, it was a much, much, much-needed win for us," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "And it was against a quality team, so that made it even better. For the first time in a long time, I thought we played well for four quarters, where we executed."

Both these teams played in New York City on Friday, with decidedly different results. The Bulls built a 25-point lead in the first half and held on to beat the Knicks, while the Suns scored just 26 points in the second half of a loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

Luis Scola led the Suns on Saturday with 22 points, while Michael Beasley added 20. Beasley had scored six points combined in the previous eight games. Beasley scored 12 points in the final four minutes of the second quarter, lifting Phoenix to a 49-42 edge at halftime.

"I stayed ready," Beasley said. "It felt good to have the ball finally drop my way. I'm going to build on this personally and just get better throughout the season."

One reason Beasley got more playing time was a wrist injury knocked Jared Dudley out of Saturday's game. Beasley asked if he understood why he hadn't played much lately or what he needed to do to get back in the rotation.

"Score the ball," he said. "Honestly, I really don't know why. I kind of just want to get it and just look forward. Build on this game and just look forward."

The Suns gradually pushed the lead to 14 points by the end of the third quarter and Chicago never seriously threatened in the fourth.

Chicago built some brief momentum early in the fourth quarter when Butler's follow slam brought the home team within 77-65. The Bulls had two chances to get closer but couldn't convert. Eventually, Suns center Marcin Gortat hit a turnaround jumper and Sebastian Telfair added a 3-pointer to make it 82-65 with 9:25 remaining.

"We have to circle the wagons and we've got to take a hard look at everything we're doing," Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Everyone has to do it, starting with me. I have to get more out of our team. It's my job to have them ready. Right now we're not doing as well as we should."

The Bulls' home record dropped to 10-10 on the season and the frustration was evident. They picked up four technical fouls, by Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Nate Robinson and Thibodeau.

Boozer led the Bulls with 15 points. Deng and Jimmy Butler added 13 each, while Joakim Noah grabbed 13 rebounds.

"It's weird to have a great road record and an average home record, especially with our team; we've been so dominant at home over the last few years," Boozer said. "There's nobody out there going to fix it. We've got to fix it ourselves."

The Bulls also dropped a home game early this season to New Orleans, which currently owns the worst record in the Western Conference.

NOTES: Phoenix guard Jared Dudley missed the game with a right wrist strain. Shannon Brown started in his place. ... After winning in New York on Friday, the Bulls were 10-5 on the road, tied with the Clippers and Oklahoma City for best in the league. They were just 10-9 at home, however, heading into Saturday's contest. ... The Suns scored just 26 points in the second half of Friday's loss at Brooklyn. That was the second-fewest points scored in a half in franchise history, according to Elias Sports Bureau. They tallied 25 points in a second half against Sacramento in 2001. ... Luol Deng's 33 points at New York were the most scored by a Bulls player this season, and his 21 points by halftime matched the most he's ever scored in a half. ... This was the 2,000th victory for the Suns as a franchise. They are the fourth-fastest team to reach the milestone, behind the Celtics, Lakers and 76ers.
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