New-look Bulls slip into old, familiar habits in loss to Sixers
This felt like a throwback night at the United Center.
For some reason, the bad old rebuilding Bulls made a return appearance. A large chunk of this game featured lackluster effort, questionable decisions and misguided defense.
The problem was, a full house showed up expecting to see the new and exciting version of the Bulls, which was off to a 6-2 start this season.
Missing three starters, Philadelphia got a dominant performance from Joel Embiid and pushed away another Bulls comeback to win 114-105 on Saturday.
Embiid finished with 30 points and 15 rebounds, while Furkan Korkmarz hit 7 of 9 3-pointers for 25 points. Besides Ben Simmons, the Sixers were missing Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle due to health and safety protocols and veteran guard Danny Green with a hamstring injury.
As has been their tendency, the Bulls tried to come back, took a brief 1-point lead in the fourth quarter, but couldn't match Philadelphia's big shots down the stretch.
"We've just got to do a better job of coming out and setting the tone," Zach LaVine said. "It's frustrating, we're trying to figure out how to get off to a better start. We come back every game but it's not like we want to live like that."
After a long climb, the Bulls finally took the lead at 97-96 on a LaVine 3-pointer with 5:47 left. It was tied at 99-99 on a Derrick Jones Jr. follow slam. But that was the end of the Bulls' surge. Korkmarz hit a 3, Georges Niang nailed an open 3, then when Embiid hit from long range, he and Seth Curry waved goodbye to the fans.
"Once we get down, we decide to get more physical and we decide to run faster and harder down the floor to get easier buckets," Jones said. "As soon as the clock starts, we've got to get going and have the game plan of what we want to do. Go out there and run the floor as hard as we can, get easy buckets, knock down open 3s when we get them, just get more easy shots for us."
So instead of the celebration of a new era, this game exposed some flaws of the new roster. This group lacks 3-point shooters, multiple scorers, is small on the front line and susceptible to speed on the perimeter.
The Bulls seemed to be scrambling on defense all game, either because they double-teamed Embiid and had to get back or guys like Tyrese Maxey or Shake Milton blew past a defender and got into the lane.
"I thought they did a very good job of just putting their head down and coming downhill," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. "That's really all it was. They did a good job screening. I thought our guys battled and fought to try to get through (screens) but when they were coming downhill, it was obviously hard for us to getting back on the ball and having to close out was a challenge."
LaVine led the Bulls with 32 points, while DeMar DeRozan added 25. Center Nikola Vucevic had another poor shooting night, going 5-for-26.
The Bulls got to the foul line 30 times, but Philadelphia won the 3-point line handily, hitting 13 of 26, compared to 7 of 29 for the Bulls. After a decent start by the Bulls, the Sixers flipped the momentum of the game with a 19-3 run in the second quarter and led 57-47 at halftime.
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