Chicago Bulls can't overcome Embiid's career night
The Bulls seemed to have the right idea Friday night in Philadelphia.
They didn't have much hope of stopping 76ers center Joel Embiid, so they might as well try to outscore him.
Bulls counterpart Wendell Carter Jr. tallied his team's first 8 points of the game and had 10 by the time he left with 2 fouls, just over halfway through the opening quarter.
In the end, though, the Bulls couldn't find the answers on defense. Embiid piled up a career-high 50 points and the Bulls' strong effort came up short 112-105.
"He had one of them nights. It took him to get 50 to beat us, and it's tough," Zach LaVine said. "He did his job as an MVP candidate, obviously. For a guy that size to be that skilled and to shoot that well, there's not a lot you can do."
LaVine led the Bulls with 30 points but didn't shoot well, going 9-for-28 overall and 2-for-10 from 3-point land. Carter finished with 15 points, while Thad Young had 12 points and 9 rebounds.
The Sixers played without point guard Ben Simmons, a late scratch due to an illness. This result means Sixers coach Doc Rivers, a Maywood native, will represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA All-Star Game.
Bulls coach Billy Donovan rarely leaves clinic-speaker mode, so he wasn't about to concede this game to Embiid's overwhelming size and talent.
"Listen, he played a great game, but I thought we had a lot of mistakes," Donovan said. "We left our feet for shot fakes, we fouled him, we took a really poor stance in post defense. Wendell picked up 2 fouls, obviously probably fouls he maybe could have avoided.
"I thought when we did play him correctly, I thought our help was late on the back side when he went baseline. That happened too much."
The Bulls trailed by 4 when Denzel Valentine hit a 3-pointer, then Ryan Arcidiacono caught the Sixers napping, stole the ensuing inbound pass, hit a layup and was fouled. The 3-point play put the Bulls ahead 89-87 with 8:31 left.
From that point, it was a question of whether the Bulls could stop Embiid enough times to pull off the upset. Of course, they couldn't. The Sixers big man went 17-for-26 from the field, 15-for-17 from the foul line, with 17 rebounds.
With just under two minutes left, the Bulls had the ball down by 2, but LaVine lost it out of bounds and it went to the Sixers after a video review. Then Young tried to draw a charge on Embiid, but it was called a block on a close call.
Embiid hit 2 free throws to make it a 4-point game, the Bulls missed twice on the other end, then Embiid hit a tough corner jumper with 41.8 seconds left to put Philadelphia in command at 109-103.
"There's not really much I can really say about it. He's just a good player," Carter said. "He knows how to get himself to the free-throw line, and he did that really well tonight."
This was the Bulls' only scheduled national television appearance in the first half of the season. Maybe after putting on a good show, they'll be invited back when the second-half schedule is released.
"If we can play low turnover, not excessively foul, and just be solid and defend and rebound, then we can overcome an off shooting night," Donovan said. "We've got to be really, really disciplined. I thought the second unit, when we got right back in the game, that was the most undersized team we had out there, and they were just fighting, scratching and clawing and we were coming up with rebounds, they were jumping over guys' backs.
"That's how we have to play, but we've got to eliminate the stuff where if the game's not going well for you, don't make it that much harder. I thought at times we made it harder for ourselves tonight."
The Bulls are back in action Saturday against Sacramento at the United Center.
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