Bulls make another big comeback, but lose to Sixers

The Bulls have done a great job of being scrappy and resilient on the road this week, but that's obviously not going to pay off every time.

They rallied from 19 points down Monday in Boston and rallied to win. On Wednesday in Philadelphia, the Bulls erased an 18-point deficit to tie the score in the fourth quarter. But this time they were outplayed down the stretch and lost 103-98.

This result knocked the Bulls out of first place in the Eastern Conference, but a 6-2 start is still better than expected. They'll get a rematch against the 76ers on Saturday at the United Center.

"These guys battle and fight, they don't give up," coach Billy Donovan said. "I have great respect and admiration they fought their way back, but it's hard to live like that."

The biggest problem in this game was an untimely offensive lull. After tying the game at 87-87 on DeMar DeRozan's jumper with 6:40 left, the Bulls went nearly four minutes without a basket.

Derrick Jones Jr. did hit a pair of free throws to make it 90-89, but the Bulls followed with four empty possessions. The Sixers kept scoring and pulled ahead 98-89 until the Bulls finally broke the dry spell with a steal by Lonzo Ball and fastbreak lay-in from Alex Caruso.

"We've got to play as close to a 48-minute game as possible," DeRozan said. "Teams are too good in this league to have lapses. It's a great learning game that we can take a lot from tonight."

The Bulls got back within 100-98 when DeRozan hit a tough baseline jumper with 29.9 seconds left. Needing a stop, the Bulls played pretty good defense, but Seth Curry hit a 14-foot jumper over Caruso to make it a 4-point lead.

On the next trip, DeRozan tried to dunk it over Joel Embiid. A foul was called, then reversed by replay review. It was a tough call, but there were only five seconds left, so the odds didn't favor the Bulls as it was.

"We've got to come out with a sense of urgency, especially on the road, playing against a good team," DeRozan said. "We showed we can get back in the game, but let's not make it tough on ourselves."

Another issue was scoring balance. DeRozan poured in 37 points, LaVine had 27, then it dropped to Ball with 13. Center Nikola Vucevic scored just 4 points.

"We've got a great five man that can shoot," Donovan said. "We've got to find ways to get him more shots from back there. Sometimes it's hard, you've got to make that split-second read. I think as these guys learn how to play with each other ... just having an idea and a sense of where Vuc is at so we can generate more 3s.

"If he can do more, I think it stretches the defense a little bit, you take away the big's rim protection and it allows us to play downhill even more."

The Sixers (6-2) built the lead through 3-point shooting. They hit 7 of 13 in the first half and 12 of 28 for the game, compared to just 6 of 21 for the Bulls.

Curry led Philadelphia with 22 points, while Embiid and Georges Niang had 18 each. Tobias Harris didn't play due to COVID protocols.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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