The Bulls tried to stay confident the past two days, knowing all-star guard Derrick Rose was lost for the season with a knee injury.
And things looked fine after the first 24 minutes of Game 2 of their Eastern Conference first-round series with Philadelphia.
But it's doubtful Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc could have salvaged a miserable second half that led to an ugly 109-92 loss and a series tied at 1-1.
Pippen and Kukoc were in the stands, just not in uniform.
The 76ers outscored the Bulls 62-37 in the final two quarters, shot 64.3 percent from the field and raced down the floor to build a 13-0 advantage in fastbreak points.
All this created a sight seldom seen at the United Center the past two years -- fans streaming for the exits with five minutes remaining in the contest.
"I'm not shocked. I'm a little disappointed and I'm embarrassed we played like that on our home court," Luol Deng said. "Now we've got to get the job done on the road."
Rose did his best to inspire his teammates. He arrived at the arena a couple hours before the game, limped to center court to greet the crowd just before tipoff, then watched the action from a luxury suite.
"He's a great teammate," Kyle Korver said. "He was in here after the game telling us to keep our heads up and we will."
The Bulls played relatively well without Rose in the first half, opening a 55-47 lead by intermission. Then the Bulls barely knew what sped past them in the third quarter.
Philadelphia cranked up the fastbreak game, started the second half with a 19-4 run and never looked back. Sixers guard Jrue Holiday hit 11 of 15 shots from the field for 26 points. Guard Lou Williams added 20 and Chicago native Evan Turner, who joined the starting lineup for Game 2, added 19.
"I thought the third quarter was the game," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "In the first five minutes, they were into us. We took tough shots. We did not have floor balance."
The Bulls did make one effort to stop the flood of fastbreak points, closing to 70-66 after a C.J. Watson 3-pointer with 3:43 left in the third. But the Sixers answered with a 13-3 run to take a 14-point lead into the fourth quarter and it never got any closer.
"I can't tell you how exciting it is to come in here to Chicago and get a playoff win here on the road for our team," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "It was a great, great night. This is our 11th road game out of the last 13 games we've played. So we've been sort of the road warriors."
The Bulls have given up more points than this before. Sacramento scored 115 in a Bulls' win back on Feb. 14. But consider this: During the final 50 games of the regular season, just one opponent shot 50 percent from the field against the Bulls. That was Denver, which went an even .500 on March 26. The Sixers shot 59 percent Tuesday.
"We never let a team score that many points on us," guard John Lucas said. "That's something that we, as a team, are going to have to step up and be like, 'That's not happening again.' I know we will. I'm not worried about it. I'm not worried at all."
"We didn't play well defensively. We didn't play well offensively. We got our (butts) kicked," added Joakim Noah. "The way we started out the third quarter was unacceptable. The 76ers are good, but this is about us."
Noah was pretty much the lone bright spot for the Bulls. He hit 10 of 11 shots for 21 points. He and Lucas (15 points) led the Bulls on a 23-12 run to end the second quarter. After halftime, though, the Bulls stopped taking the ball to the basket and long misses often led to easy Sixers buckets.
"We're not going to make any excuses," Deng said. "We've got enough guys here. We're good enough. We just didn't show up tonight in the second half.
"Offense is not who we are. We've got to take pride in our defense. This is the playoffs. Defensively, we have to be better. We have to take the challenge."