Portis scores 38, but Chicago Bulls give it away late and lose to Sixers

 
 
Updated 2/23/2018 12:21 AM
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  • Chicago Bulls' Bobby Portis reacts after scoring a three-point shot over Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Chicago.

    Chicago Bulls' Bobby Portis reacts after scoring a three-point shot over Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in Chicago.

These are the sort of results the Chicago Bulls figure to cherish the rest of the way.

The end of Thursday night's game against Philadelphia was heartbreaking in some respects. But the Bulls got to experience a close game, some of their younger guys played very well, and they picked up a loss to help in the quest for a better draft pick.

The 76ers hit 4 free throws in the final eight seconds to pull out a 116-115 victory at the United Center, after Zach LaVine's 3-pointer gave the Bulls a 5-point lead with 1:02 remaining.

Regardless of the outcome, the story of this game was a career-high 38 points from forward Bobby Portis, whose previous high was 27. Portis knocked down 6 of 9 shots from 3-point range.

"I scored 30 like five times in college, scored 40 a lot in high school, like 20 times," Portis said. "Me scoring really doesn't matter. I'm just trying to help this basketball team win. I'm not a selfish player at all, but scoring 38 does feel good."

Portis had a chance to win it at the end. After catching a long lob pass, he got a short bank shot off against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid. It missed and Denzel Valentine couldn't hit a putback attempt just before the buzzer. The 76ers (31-25) won their sixth in a row.

"It's always hard losing those hard-fought games," Portis said. "At the same time, I felt we played well as a team. Everybody showed what they can do. Hopefully we can come back Friday ready to go."

The narrative that the Bulls are in all-out tank mode because they decided to sit Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday was ridiculous to begin with. Lopez and Holiday are essentially the team's fifth- and sixth-best players, and David Nwaba has been better than Holiday at times this season.

But the tank was knocking over everything in its path at the start of this one.

The Sixers were hot early and rolled to a 25-7 lead. Portis checked in early, and the Bulls made up most of that deficit before the first quarter ended.

Before fouling out with 3:20 left, Nwaba scored a career-high 21 points, pulled down a team-high 9 rebounds and helped keep the Bulls playing at a fast pace. LaVine added 23 points.

The newcomers to the lineup showed some rust.

Cameron Payne, making his season debut at backup point guard after recovering from foot surgery, had 7 points and 7 assists. Cristiano Felicio, who started at center, scored 5 points in light minutes. Power forward Noah Vonleh had 3 points and 7 rebounds in 17 minutes. Paul Zipser didn't play in the second half because of a foot injury.

The Bulls (20-38) tried to protect a 3-point lead by fouling J.J. Redick with eight seconds left before he could shoot a 3-pointer.

But Redick hit both free throws and after a timeout Valentine threw an errant inbounds pass that was stolen by Embiid (30 points, 4 blocks). Valentine then fouled Simmons (32 points 11 assists), who hit the winning free throws.

"It's tough, but like I told the guys, if we go out and compete at that type of level every time we step on the floor, we're going to be fine," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We're going to have opportunities to win games. We're not talking wins and losses, we're talking about going out and competing hard."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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