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They were beaten on the boards for the third time in five games Tuesday, although they’re still outrebounding opponents by a league-high 5.56 per game, and they let a 22-point lead in the second half dwindle to two before pulling out a 97-94 win over the Suns. Noah was a bit out of sync after missing three games with a sprained right ankle, finishing with 12 points and four rebounds.

“A lot of balls have been coming out of my hands,” he said. “I have to do a better job of that.”

The Bulls need to do a better job finishing off opponents. Besides the late drama with Phoenix, they had some defensive lapses against Toronto in the previous game and struggled to put away the Raptors.

“It’s a lot of things we need to tighten up,” Deng said. “We all know that. We’re not panicking. The last few games, we’ve got to do a better job, especially in the second half. … It’s stuff that I’m sure we’ll sort it out.”

This would be a good time, with Boston coming to town.

Is it a statement game?

“No,” Thibodeau, the former Celtics assistant, shot back. It is, however, an important one.

“They’re a very talented team, they’re well-coached,” Thibodeau said. “There’s not anything that we’re doing that they don’t know, and there’s not anything that they’re doing that we don’t know. It’ll come down to how well we can execute and how well they can execute. They’re the defending Eastern Conference champions. Until someone knocks them off, you’ve got to be ready to compete with them.”