Bulls brutal from start to finish in home loss to 76ers

Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers, a Maywood native, shared a Michael Jordan story before Wednesday's game at the United Center, involving the 1988 All-Star Game at Chicago Stadium.

"At halftime of that All-Star Game, Michael came in and basically went off on the guys and said, 'We're not losing in my (expletive) building. We don't lose here,'" Rivers said. "He told (East coach) Mike (Fratello), 'Play the guys that want to play defense.'"

The Bulls needed some of that energy in this one, although by halftime it would have been too late. After winning in Philadelphia on Monday, they brought nothing to the rematch, falling behind 23-1 at the start on the way to a 116-91 thumping.

Back to the '88 All-Star Game for a moment: The East actually led at halftime when Jordan scolded his teammates and won 138-133. Jordan scored 40 points and was named MVP. Bulls assistant Maurice Cheeks was also on that East squad, while it was the only all-star appearance of Rivers' 14-year playing career.

"The first name that came out was, 'Play Doc, play such and such,'" Rivers said. "I was like, 'This Mike guy is OK with me.'"

The Sixers made it clear they weren't planning to lose two in a row to the Bulls. But the home team was also locked into a bizarre no-show mode. They gave up easy shots on defense and couldn't get a decent look until Nikola Vucevic finally finished a dunk at the 6:36 mark of the first quarter for the Bulls' first field goal.

"We were constantly playing catch-up," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. "They were just quicker, sharper, just better all the way around."

After falling behind 23-1, the second unit brought some decent energy and brought the deficit back to 10. But by halftime the Sixers led 76-48 and MVP candidate Joel Embiid didn't even bother coming out of the locker room for the second half.

DeMar DeRozan didn't last much longer. Midway through the second quarter, something happened away from the ball that sent DeRozan stumbling into the scorer's table. He was clearly angry about it a few seconds later and flattened Paul Reed when the former DePaul forward set a screen.

DeRozan was called for a flagrant foul and technical, resulting in a 5-point possession that pushed the Sixers' lead from 13 to 18.

Donovan picked up a technical foul less than two minutes later. Officials missed an obvious hack across the wrist as Ayo Dosunmu drove to the basket and Donovan called time out to make sure they heard about it.

DeRozan checked out at the 7:48 mark of the third quarter and headed to the locker room. He went 0-for-7 from the field and scored just 4 points.

The Bulls said DeRozan left due to a right quad strain, the injury that hampered him during the middle of the season. DeRozan didn't speak to reporters and Donovan didn't have any specific update.

Alex Caruso originally planned to play in this game, but felt something in warmups and ended up missing his second straight game with a sore left foot. James Harden (sore Achilles) sat out for Philadelphia.

One bright spot was the play of Dosunmu, who hasn't played well since giving way to Beverley. The second-year guard scored 14 on Wednesday, his highest-scoring game since Feb. 15. Coby White led the Bulls with 19 points.

"We knew they were going to come out strong like that, but I think they did the right thing, they did a lot of adjustments," Zach LaVine said. "Joel, give credit to him, we were set on getting the ball out of his hands and he did it fast and those guys hit a lot of shots, 3s that opened it up."

Up until this game, the Bulls had been showing nice improvement since veteran point guard Patrick Beverley joined the team. Last weekend, Beverley credited Rivers for being the first coach to put the ball in his hands. That happened with the Clippers, and now that Rivers is with the 76ers, he shared his thoughts on Beverley before the game.

"Red Auerbach used to always tell me, 'You can't have enough instigators on your basketball team.' And he is an instigator," Rivers said with a laugh. "He's tough, he's rugged, he never shuts up. And when he's on your team, you actually love that.

"He's not a pure point guard, he's not a lot of things, but he's smart. If you run the right offense, where he can be a decision-maker without trying to be a creator, he can really help your basketball team. That's what he did for us, he was fantastic."

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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Chicago Bulls' Coby White (0) drives to the basket under pressure from Philadelphia 76ers' Tyrese Maxey during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Chicago. The 76ers won 116-91. Associated Press
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