One thing about playing a team with a 21-game losing streak, that opponent probably will be very eager to get in the win column.
The Bulls got a scare in Philadelphia on Wednesday night but managed to pull out a 102-94 victory behind 20 points by guard D.J. Augustin.
"You've got to give them a lot of credit," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters after the game. "They play together. They've got a great spirit about them. You've got to be ready to play them. They got good contributions from a lot of people."
The Sixers lost their 22nd straight game, now four shy of the NBA record for longest losing streak within a season, set by Cleveland in 2010-11. Philadelphia has dropped 17 in a row at home.
It was a far cry from the first time the Bulls played in Philly. In the third game of the season on Nov. 2, the Bulls squandered a 20-point lead and lost 107-104. The win improved the Sixers' record to 3-0 at the time.
Since then, Philadelphia has traded away former No. 2 pick Evan Turner and center Spencer Hawes. The Sixers have gone 3-32 since Jan. 4.
They're probably going to win one of these games, though, and the Bulls needed some timely long-range shooting to pull this one out. These teams play again Saturday at the United Center.
"We knew it would be this type of game," said Augustin, who hit 4 of 6 shots from 3-point range. "We just tried to fight them until the end, and it was a fight, a real fight."
Taj Gibson added 19 points and 13 rebounds. Jimmy Butler scored 16 points while playing 46 minutes. Mike Dunleavy had 15, Carlos Boozer added 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Joakim Noah had his usual deep stat line of 14 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 blocks.
"I thought Carlos was really good tonight and that set the tone for us -- his rebounding and his aggressiveness and taking the ball to the basket," Thibodeau said. "We had a lot of guys step up."
The Bulls (38-30) led by 11 in the second quarter and were up 52-45 at halftime. But the Sixers tightened things up in the third quarter, pulling within 64-63 on a bucket by center Henry Sims with 5:11 left.
When Gibson opened the fourth quarter with a 17-foot jumper, the Bulls were back up by 8. Then backup center Byron Mullens drained consecutive 3-pointers to give Philadelphia some life, and Thaddeus Young's 3-pointer tied the score at 85-85 with 7:43 remaining.
The Sixers missed a chance to take the lead, and the Bulls responded with 3-pointers by Butler and Augustin to go ahead by 6, but things were never very comfortable.
Guard Tony Wroten missed a 3-pointer that could have tied the score, and Augustin answered with a 3 to send the Bulls ahead 96-90 with 3:20 left. A Mullens layup pulled Philadelphia within 98-94 with 1:19 remaining, and Wroten missed a shot that could have cut the lead to 2 with 30 seconds left.
Finally, Butler and Augustin put the game out of reach by hitting a pair of free throws.