5 takeaways from the Chicago Bulls’ loss in Phoenix, including a high-scoring 1st quarter and Kevin Durant’s 2nd-half master class

PHOENIX — Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan didn’t need to be warned about Kevin Durant.

He coached Durant for a season in Oklahoma City, where he quickly became attuned to Durant’s killer instinct at the end of games.

“He’ll go down as one of the greatest scorers in the history of this game,” Donovan said. “He doesn’t shy away from matchups. … He is not afraid in the moment. He leans into that. He wants every bit of that.”

So when Durant reeled off 30 second-half points Monday, including a game-winning jumper with 1.6 seconds left, Donovan wasn’t surprised — just frustrated that his team was the victim.

He shrugged as he took his seat for his postgame media session.

“Told you so,” Donovan said.

Durant’s 43-point effort sank the Bulls in a 115-113 loss at the Footprint Center. The Bulls are now 21-24 and remain ninth in the Eastern Conference.

Here are five takeaways from the loss.

1. Assists fueled the Bulls’ first-quarter flurry.

The Bulls found an immediate rhythm, logging assists on their first 10 field goals as they sprang to a 19-point lead. Ball movement was key to the early success, with the Bulls logging 12 assists in the first quarter, led by Coby White (five) and Nikola Vučević (four).

With the ball skipping around the court, the Bulls shot 65.2% and went 7-for-14 behind the 3-point arc to score 37 points, their best quarter of the season.

In what’s becoming standard for the Bulls, White was the star of the offensive flurry, scoring 11 points and going 3-for-3 behind the arc.

2. Alex Caruso’s foul trouble helped the Suns make a third-quarter comeback.

The Bulls built their advantage to 23 points four minutes into the third quarter. But the Suns began to regain control as the game became increasingly chippy.

DeMar DeRozan argued with Grayson Allen. Drew Eubanks shoved White. Andre Drummond shoved Eubanks. DeRozan got his shot blocked while attempting to put Eubanks on a poster as revenge.

The first half featured a valiant defensive effort led by Alex Caruso, who finished with three blocked shots. Caruso took on the gargantuan task of guarding Durant, while Ayo Dosunmu often helped to spring traps and disrupt Durant’s rhythm.

But the Bulls struggled without Caruso on the court — particularly in the last seven minutes of the third quarter.

Caruso was forced to sit after picking up his fourth foul. With the Bulls’ best defender off the court, the Suns went on a 24-11 run to whittle the lead to seven points entering the fourth quarter.

3. DeMar DeRozan and Coby White went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant.

Durant took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 17 points to power a 32-point quarter for the Suns.

The Bulls threw bodies at Durant but to no avail. He missed only two field goals — both of which were 3-point attempts — as he calmly disposed of the Bulls lead.

On the Suns’ final play, Durant collected a pass at the top of the key, took a single dribble before pulling up, then adjusted the ball midair to dodge Caruso’s leaping block attempt before sending a sure-fire shot through the net for the game-winner.

DeRozan had scored an equalizer with 22 seconds left on a signature turnaround jumper in the paint. But his potential game-winning 3-point attempt banked slightly wide and ricocheted off the rim, leaving the Bulls inches from a win.

“He’s one of the greatest players in the game,” DeRozan said. “You’ve got to shake his hand. It’s incredible what he’s able to do — but with that, we still had a chance.”

4. The Bulls won the boards but gave up a key second-chance opportunity.

The Bulls outrebounded the Suns 14-5 on the offensive boards and outscored them 17-9 in second-chance points.

But they gave up a key second chance that could have saved the game when Eubanks snagged an offensive board and kicked out to Durant for a go-ahead 3-pointer with 30 seconds left.

5. DeMar DeRozan took exception to an overturned call.

The momentum swung in the Suns’ favor after an overturned call in the final three minutes.

DeRozan thought he had a chance to put the Bulls up by two possessions when he hit a baseline jumper over Allen and earned a whistle on his way down. But the Suns challenged the call, arguing that DeRozan had fouled Allen by grabbing him with his left hand as he fell.

Suns coach Frank Vogel won the challenge, which revoked the points and gave the Suns the ball with 2:08 left.

“That was bad in my opinion,” DeRozan said. “Regardless, I still thought I got fouled first. That hurt us. Give us that free throw, the game is entirely different.”