Bulls fans everywhere tonight are hoping that winning really is the best medicine.
It won’t take long to find out. After a terrible week that featured a very public and very funny war of words between roster factions along with one of the worst losses of the season, the Chicago Bulls found a way to hit the reset button tonight and powered past the Philadelphia 76ers with a 121-108 victory from the United Center. Almost all of the Bulls that played tonight had good games, and a team effort and committment to moving without the ball on offense allowed the Bulls to score with great frequency and efficiency all night long (50.6% shooting as a team, 57.1% 3-PT shooting on 8-14).
The Sixers opened the game with a 6-0 run that lasted for the initial two and a half minutes of the game. The Bulls themselves would not score until Jerian Grant rattled home a little under three minutes into the game... and then over the next nine minutes, Chicago proceeded to score 34 more points. Without Joel Embiid to protect the rim for the Sixers, the Bulls were able to execute well close to the basket early on. Robin Lopez hit double figures in the opening twelve minutes, and Jimmy Butler earned eight trips to the freethrow line during that same span. A short-staffed Sixers team struggled to find consistent scoring options after an initial outburst from Ersan Ilyasova, and as a result the Bulls were able to finish the first quarter on top 37-23.
The Bulls continued their good play to begin the second period by not only kicking things off with an 8-2 run, but also by drawing a third foul on Nerlens Noel to force him to the Sixers’ bench. Chicago built their lead up to seventeen at one point before a sequence of back to back And-1s for Philadelphia (on the same posession without the ball ever exiting the lane) cut the lead back to single digits. Fortunately, the Bulls got a lot of support from their bench throughout the first half, as they managed to outscore the Sixers’ reserves 25-9 thanks to double-digit outputs from Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott. Although the Sixers did go on to have a 34 point quarter led by continued hot shooting from Ilyasova, the Bulls managed to score 30 points of their own to give them a 67-57 lead heading into the locker room.
Oh, and Dwyane Wade also pulled off this beautiful hilarity:
The second half began with both teams keeping pace with each other to the tune of each team scoring ten points in the first four minutes. Unfortunately, the Sixers finally managed a nice stretch offensively that featured a 14-4 run that tied the game at 81-all with about four minutes left in the quarter. Rajon Rondo then took the reigns for the bench unit and proceeded to carve up the Sixers for the last four minutes of the quarter. Rondo pushed his assist total to ten off the bench while piloting a 15-6 run to close the quarter for Chicago and rebuild the lead. Though they allowed thirty points for the second straight quarter, the Bulls still managed to enter the final period ahead of their opponents 96-87.
The fourth quarter didn’t deviate much from the narrative of the rest of the game, as both teams continued to answer each other’s scoring through the first six minutes. At this point, the Sixers continued to sit within striking distance of the Bulls’ lead, but Chicago’s offense tonight just seemed too potent for a short-handed Philadelphia team to keep up with defensively. Butler and Dwyane Wade continued to make plays on offense while Paul Zipser came alive in the final quarter to give the Bulls enough breathing room to stay on top at the end. The contest concluded with a final score of 121-108 in favor of the Bulls.
With no Joel Embiid or Jahlil Okafor to worry about and Nerlens Noel dealing with foul trouble for most of the game, Robin Lopez got to enjoy arguably his best all-around game of the season; scoring 21 points on 13 shots to go along with 10 rebounds (five offensive) and three blocks. Jimmy Butler posted a line of 28 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 steals supplemented by a 12-15 performance from the freethrow line. The entire bench played well tonight, but the two key performers off it had to be Rajon Rondo (8 points, 10 assists) and Paul Zipser (13 points on 3-5 shooting from three). Overall, it was one of the most visually-appealing and statisticially-impressive offensive performances from the Bulls all season. Not much to report for the Sixers. Ersan Ilyasova finished three points short of his career high with 31, and all of their starters played pretty well, but a completely absent effort from the benched ultimately doomed Philly in this one.
Given all the negative quotes in the press this past week in and around the team and that the Bulls are about to embark on a grueling road trip, this was a much needed win for a squad desperately looking to cling to its sanity. Not only that, but it was a good win (albeit an easy one on paper) that showcased what this team is capable of when they play all make an effort to move without the basketball on offense. The Bulls will next play on Wednesday in a rematch with Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road.