Chicago Bulls rally late to beat Sixers, stretch win streak to six
After the lowly Chicago Bulls shocked the NBA by winning five in a row, nothing they do should really be surprising.
But this was.
The streak felt like history when a Jerryd Bayless 4-point play gave a scrappy Philadelphia 76ers squad a 105-96 lead over Bulls with 5:51 remaining Monday night at the United Center.
But Kris Dunn and Nikola Mirotic have played like all-stars lately, and they weren't about to stop now. That pair led a furious comeback, and the Bulls ran the streak to six straight with a 117-115 victory.
Dunn and Mirotic finished with 22 points. Each hit a 3-pointer down the stretch, as the Bulls ended the game with a 21-10 run.
"You can see it in the locker room, everybody has a smile, everybody's happy," Dunn said. "I think the biggest thing, the reason why we're winning, is we're having fun."
For Mirotic, the turn of events is hard to believe. When the regular season began, he was facing six weeks on the sideline with facial fractures and a concussion.
Now that he's back, Mirotic is living up to long-lost expectations as one of the brightest young stars in Europe. He's playing with confidence, taking over games, making plays on both ends. It's no coincidence the Bulls' streak began when he returned to the court.
"Sometimes things just happen with a reason," Mirotic said in the locker room. "You never know why it's the reason. Maybe it could be looking very bad in the beginning, but at the end of the day, I'm not saying that it's good, but just trying to be positive out there and making my life simple in the game."
It sounds like Mirotic isn't quite ready to put the Oct. 17 practice altercation with Bobby Portis behind him completely. But who can complain about the recent results?
"Putting all the work I did and enjoying the basketball, that's all and that's my goal," Mirotic added. "We are 6-0 now and we're going to try to be 7-0, and we're going to be for sure."
The Bulls (9-20) led 89-87 heading into the fourth but got outworked by the 76ers early in the fourth quarter. Rookie Ben Simmons just missed a triple-double with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists.
"I told them in the huddle our body language stunk," coach Fred Hoiberg said. "It was like we were down 20. It was a two-possession game. Our guys went out there and they rallied."
The key sequence started with the Bulls down by 6. Lauri Markkanen hit a 3-pointer, Mirotic blocked a layup by Dario Saric, then Dunn drilled a 3-pointer to tie the score with 2:44 left.
After Mirotic stole the ball from J.J. Redick, he hit a post hook and 3-point play to put the Bulls ahead. Dunn followed with a spinning lane jumper to put the Bulls ahead 112-107 with 1:26 remaining.
Dunn and Mirotic hit jumpers to keep the Bulls ahead, but the Sixers had a chance to tie in the waning seconds. Simmons, guarded by David Nwaba, missed a driving bank shot badly, Mirotic grabbed the rebound, and it was over.
The Sixers (14-15) played without center Joel Embiid, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, who rested on the first night of back-to-back games.
Markkanen was back in the starting lineup after missing three games with a sore back. He seemed a little rusty and wasn't much of a factor in the first half. The Bulls fell behind 18-10, but just like they did in Milwaukee on Friday, rallied to take the lead by the end of the first quarter.
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls.