Phoenix’s Miles Plumlee hit a free throw to make it 85-81. But Kirk Hinrich answered with a 3 to bump the lead to seven with two minutes remaining.
“It doesn’t matter if they have five people or 12 people,” the Suns’ Channing Frye said. “They’re going to come out here and play as hard as they can. They have really good players. Guys that want to prove themselves.”
It was a difficult day for both teams, with the Suns’ departure from Phoenix delayed to Tuesday because of the subzero temperatures in Chicago and the Bulls trading away one of their best players. The deal was yet another big blow for a team that expected to challenge the Miami Heat for supremacy in the Eastern Conference.
Derrick Rose’s season-ending knee injury in November dashed those hopes, and Deng is gone now, too.
“We can accept our circumstances as they are, or we can do all we can to change them and turn them into something positive,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “That’s one of the things I’ve admired about our team — they’ve accepted every challenge.”
They’re facing another one after trading Deng. Snell referred to him as a “big brother,” and Butler has repeatedly mentioned how much he learned from him.
“He told me he’s going to miss me, and Lu’s never told me anything nice since I’ve been here,” Butler said, grinning.