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Professional

NBA: Bulls cool off red-hot Suns

Bulls sizzle against 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 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.

Carlos Boozer led the Bulls with 19 points, while Jimmy Butler added 18. Joakim Noah had 14 points with 14 rebounds. The Suns' Goran Dragic led all scorers with 24 points.

While some focused on Boozer's comments about fourth-quarter playing time or Noah's outburst toward officials after his ejection Monday, the Bulls coach, as usual, focused 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 one thing I don't like right now is you get into things together and you get out of things together. That's what we have to do. We need everyone in the circle, fighting our way out of this."

The Bulls entered just 4-6 in the second of back-to-back games, but delivered an impassioned defensive performance in the first half that led to a 44-33 halftime advantage. The Suns, who entered averaging 104.9 points, scored a season-low 13 points in the first quarter, posted another season-low for points in a half, and shot 30 percent in the first half.

But they scored on their first six possessions of the second half to close the gap.

"Collectively, we just have to put a stop to [the poor play]," guard Kirk Hinrich said. "We've shown we're capable when we have the right mindset. We just have to get it back."

After Monday's blowout loss to the Kings, Thibodeau talked about needing a more serious approach. Asked if he had seen slippage in that area, he said yes without saying yes.

"The thing is, you can't just think you can turn it on and off," Thibodeau said. "If you let up just a little bit in this league, it's going to show. Normally, you get what you deserve. Our fight has to be greater.

"When you're not shooting the ball well, you have to make more hustle plays. We have to be the first to the floor, take more charges, set great screens, finish through people."

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