The Philadelphia 76ers entered the season viewed as the most egregious of an increasing lot of teams tanking ahead of a loaded 2014 draft class. A week later, they're 3-0 with wins over the Heat and Bulls. Philadelphia outscored the Bulls by 18 in the second half to steal a 107-104 win at the Wells Fargo Center. The loss drops the Bulls to 1-2.
The story of the game was two-pronged for the Bulls: Derrick Rose struggled immensely for the second straight game and his teammates didn't do him any favors by shooting just 3-for-14 from three-point range. The Bulls were supposed to boast a collection of solid shooters around Rose, but Luol Deng, Mike Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich have each struggled to find their shot in the early part of this season. Conversely, Philly made 11 of their 22 three-pointers, showing cracks in a Bulls defense that has typically been excellent in limiting good looks from three-point range under Thibodeau. While Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson have looked active in defending the paint, the perimeter defense leaves a lot to be desired.
As for Rose, there's no reason to sugarcoat it: he got roasted by a 22-year old rookie playing his third NBA game. The start of Michael Carter-Williams' career has been astounding, and he was incredible again on Saturday vs. the Bulls. Carter-Williams' length bothered Rose all night, as he was able to finish over the top of Rose even when Rose contested shots. It also helped flummoxed Rose when the Bulls had the ball.
Rose has shown a tendency to start pressing offensively this season, particularly following poor possessions, and it cost the Bulls in a big way on Saturday. Rose finished the night with 13 points and six assists on just 4-for-14 shooting, and had five of his eight turnovers in the fourth quarter. He was making bad decisions with the ball and still doesn't seem to have a sense of where his teammates are on the court. Part of this is because of the layoff, part is because the Bulls rebuilt their offense to model that of the Spurs have over the offseason. Regardless, it's been hard to watch.
Carter-Williams so was great. He finished with 26 points, 10 assists and three steals, and played with poise beyond his years. The 76ers are playing with house money; the front office isn'tt even actively trying to compete this season. The players on the court never got the memo, though, because this team plays smart and hard. I was very impressed. They're fun to watch, particularly MCW and backup Tony Wroten.
This is still about the Bulls, though. They dominated the glass, held a huge scoring advantage inside, and got big nights out of Carlos Boozer (22 and 10) and Taj Gibson (12 and seven). It still wasn't enough. It comes down to Rose just being better and the rest of the gang hitting shots. It didn't happen against Philadelphia.