Undermanned Bulls host struggling Suns

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The Chicago Bulls welcome the Phoenix Suns into the United Center on Saturday, trying to snap a losing skid at the expense of a Phoenix team on the second leg of back-to-back games.

Phoenix fell 118-101 Friday at reigning NBA champion Toronto. The Suns trailed by as many as 26 points, but a 22-3 run spanning the late third and early fourth quarters pulled Phoenix within six points.

Devin Booker scored 21 points, more than five below his average, while the Raptors held Kelly Oubre Jr. to just 11 points — almost eight below his season average.

The loss marked Phoenix’s seventh in its last nine games, and began a three-game stretch — one that Booker told reporters was a “trap road trip” — on a sour note.

The Bulls dropped their seventh straight game on Thursday, 103-93 to Charlotte. A heavily depleted Chicago roster went into the loss without Lauri Markkanen, Denzel Valentine, Kris Dunn, Otto Porter Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr.

“Everybody knows we’re undermanned right now, but nobody cares,” LaVine said per the Bulls website. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world out here.”

Thaddeus Young scored a season-high 22 points in the loss, but Chicago’s assorted absences have resulted in overall scoring inconsistency. The Bulls rank No. 26 in the NBA averaging 106.1 points per game.

Offensive struggle is a byproduct of players stepping out of position, which coach Jim Boylen noted in his postgame press conference on Thursday.

“Luke (Kornet) played four (power forward) tonight. He really hasn’t played four all year,” Boylen said. “Tomas (Satoransky) played four tonight; hasn’t played a whole bunch of four. Coby (White)’s a young, developing guy. I’m not going to get caught up in what could be or what we should have.”

Chicago will have to adjust in the immediate future, with a few of its absent contributors not expected back until March or later.

Markkanen — Chicago’s second-leading scorer at 15 points per game — has been out since Jan. 24 with a pelvis injury. Dunn will remained sidelined for another four-to-six weeks from an MCL injury sustained on Jan. 31, the team announced Wednesday.

Carter and Porter, however, could return Saturday. NBC Sports Chicago reported Friday that Chandler Hutchison received a cortisone injection for the shoulder injury that sidelined him against Charlotte, but his status for Saturday remains uncertain.

With injuries mounting, the Bulls have endured a rough two months on the court.

Chicago has dropped 17 of its last 23, and currently sits closer to the Eastern Conference basement than the eighth seed in the playoffs.

Phoenix faced its own rash of injuries in recent weeks. Deandre Ayton missed games Feb. 10 and 12, a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers and defeat of Golden State. He returned Friday at Toronto, finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.

Dario Saric also made his return Friday after missing the previous seven games, and Aron Baynes returned for his first action after missing the previous 13 games.

“Still a couple of times during practice, I felt a little bit of pain, but I’m trying to be a tough guy, you know, and go through that,” Saric told the Arizona Republic ahead of Friday’s game.

–Field Level Media

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