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Basketball / Sports

Bulls top red-hot Suns

PHOENIX -- Get into the circle.

On a six-game trip where the two games preceding Tuesday night's were defined by poor play and individualistic tendencies, coach Tom Thibodeau coined a new catchphrase.

Get into the circle. Pull in the same direction. Make the extra pass. Dive for a loose ball.

Whatever the phrase, the message remained the same. And with Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf looking on, the Bulls followed it to snap the streaking Suns' five-game winning streak with a 101-92 victory at U.S. Airways Center, their fifth straight here.

While some focused on Carlos Boozer's comments from Monday about fourth-quarter playing time or Joakim Noah's angry outburst toward officials after his ejection Monday, the Bulls' coach, as usual, directed the attention back between the lines.

"When I say fragmented, I'm talking about our team in the game when it's not going our way not staying together," Thibodeau said. "You can't do that. It has to be within the context of the team working together. When we do that, we're successful. Everything is five-man offense, five-man defense, stay together."

The Bulls did that with a defensive performance that limited a Suns team averaging 104.9 points to season-lows for points in a first quarter (13) and first half (33) and 38.8 percent shooting.

"Our willingness to take charges was huge," Thibodeau said. "The way we challenged shots was big."

They did that with timely offense that featured D.J. Augustin knocking down three fourth-quarter 3-pointers and Boozer -- what do you know? -- delivering a huge power move basket in fourth-quarter minutes for a 95-89 lead with 1 minute, 43 seconds remaining.

Boozer's 19 points and 12 rebounds led five Bulls in double figures and Noah joined him in double-double land.

"It's a team with a lot of pride," Thibodeau said. "Some nights we may not play as well as we would like. Coming into this game, there were a lot of things going against us. We could have made excuses if we wanted to. But that's what I love about this team."

Players confirmed Thibodeau's assessment that they had a productive meeting and film session before the victory.

"He told us there are going to be ups and downs," Noah said. "The meeting was basically about just competing. And if we play with that fire and that edge, good things are going to happen. And they did."

If there has been one constant throughout this season -- beyond injuries -- it has been the Bulls' ability to rally when counted out. They have shown resiliency, righting what looked to be a lost season when they went 3-11 in the aftermath of Derrick Rose's season-ending injury. They are now .500 on this trip and for the season again.

Thibodeau's new catchphrase merely asked the Bulls to do something he believes they can.

(c)2014 Chicago Tribune

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