Though it hardly matters in the long run, the Bulls achieved some payback Saturday night.
They knocked off Philadelphia 93-88 in the type of defensive slugfest coach Tom Thibodeau enjoys. This was the first time they’ve seen the 76ers since they were dancing on the scorer’s table after knocking off the Derrick Rose-less Bulls in the first round of last year’s playoffs.
“It feels good, but at the same time, we just want to focus on us right now,” Taj Gibson said. “In the fourth quarter last year, we were known for getting stops and being tough with the lead. Tonight, we did that for once and it felt good.”
The Bulls (8-7) started the fourth quarter with a 3-point lead and never gave it up. Luol Deng scored a game-high 25 points, hitting 10 of 16 shots from the field.
They played well down the stretch, but Richard Hamilton sort of hijacked the main storyline when he was carried off the floor with a left foot injury, then came back to hit 3 free throws in the final 20 seconds.
The injury happened late in the third quarter when Hamilton jumped to make a pass and fell to the floor clutching his left leg. It was termed a foot sprain, but Hamilton said they won’t know what it is until he has an MRI exam Sunday morning.
“As soon as I came off my feet, that’s when I felt something in the bottom of my foot, felt something pop,” he said. “When it happened, it just scared me. When I felt it, I didn’t want to put pressure on it, but it wasn’t a whole lot of pain. That’s why it was so freaky to me.”
Hamilton limped badly in the locker room and said the foot was still very sore. He’ll probably miss some time, but didn’t miss the chance to shoot some late-game free throws against the Sixers.
“He (Thibodeau) asked me and I said, ‘Yeah, put me back in the game,’” Hamilton said. “He didn’t want to put me back in at first and I was like, ‘As long as my right arm is good, I’m good.’”
The Bulls matched their biggest lead at 76-68 with 7:40 remaining when a Joakim Noah steal led to Taj Gibson’s fastbreak dunk. Philadelphia (10-7) got as close as 81-79 after a 3-pointer by Jrue Holiday (23 points). The Bulls responded with a Deng jumper and Gibson dunk off a pass from Noah.
“Luol hit some really big shots,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said. “Tonight, he played about as well as he can.”
Philadelphia could have gotten the ball back trailing by 3 after Hamilton missed a free throw with 14.7 seconds left. But Noah kept the offensive rebound alive, tipped it back to Hamilton and he drained a pair of foul shots to clinch the win with 11.6 seconds left.
The Bulls outrebounded the Sixers 50-37, with Noah grabbing 13 boards and Carlos Boozer 12.
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