As was the case on Monday in Boston, the Chicago Bulls found themselves down big in the second half in Philadelphia. Then, down as much as 18, the Bulls started a furious rally in the fourth, even tying up the game halfway through the quarter. However, they weren’t able to grab the lead thanks to some rough late-game moments and ended up losing their second game of the season, 103-98.
DeMar DeRozan was once again the catalyst on offense for Chicago, scoring 37 points on 13-of-22 shooting with 10 rebounds. Meanwhile, Philly was led by the 22 points of Seth Curry, who hit the game-icing shot with 10.7 seconds left and hit several other huge jumpers down the stretch.
It was a tough loss for the Bulls, as like with the loss to New York it was one where things could have swung their way in the final minute.
Like how it has been for much of the season so far, Chicago started out the game slowly. with the Sixers going up double digits 10 minutes into the game. Initially, Chicago had Zach LaVine guarding Curry, which did not work out as Curry scored 10 points in the quarter. As a team, Philadelphia also started out shooting hot from 3, knocking down five of them. LaVine scored the Bulls’ final seven points to make it a 29-19 game at the end of one.
The start of the second period saw the DeMar+bench lineup cut the deficit down to three within the first 4 minutes. But just as quickly, Philly reeled off a 15-0 run to make this game on the verge of a blowout with a game-high 18-point margin. This stretch was a case of the 76ers making life difficult for LaVine and Lonzo Ball, leading to tough shots and turnovers along with fouls on the other end of the court. It looked like a mirror image of the Boston game: the Bulls looked lifeless while their opponents were having the time of their lives. However, Chicago was still barely within striking distance down 58-44 at the half.
The flow of the third quarter mirrored the second quarter very closely as Chicago tried to cut into the Philadelphia lead and did, being only down five (68-63). But then once again, Philadelphia struck back with a much-needed run to gain some distance. The Sixers made it a 15-point game with just over a minute to go in the third, and it looked like it would be the final blow. But LaVine scored three points to end the quarter, including a buzzer-beater to have the Bulls only down 12.
At the start of the fourth quarter is when things started to get interesting. With Embiid out of the game, Chicago took advantage. This was thanks to the lineup of Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Derrick Jones Jr., DeRozan, and Tony Bradley. getting some stops and scores. DeRozan eventually tied things up with a patented pull-up jumper with 6:40 to play.
To answer, the Sixers’ two best offensive options on the night, Curry and Embiid, stepped up. They scored nine points combined in the next two minutes to help spur Philly on a 11-2 run capped off by a Tyrese Maxey layup. It was a nine-point game in the blink of an eye after another haymaker thrown by the home team.
Despite still being down nine with just over two minutes to play after a Matisse Thybulle dunk, Chicago showed it wasn’t done yet. DeRozan free throws, a triple by Lonzo and then a baseline fadeaway jumper from DeMar made it a two-point game with 30 seconds left.
The Bulls played great defense on the following possession but could only watch as Curry knocked down a jumper in the late to make it a four-point game. DeRozan tried to answer back and was blocked by Embiid with a whistle for a foul coming soon after. But the call on the court was overturned, which came as a surprise to the Bulls:
After the loss of possession, the game was essentially over.
Despite this loss being close in crunch time, the Bulls’ offense overall was not particularly good and the numbers reflect it. They shot 46.3 percent from the field and a woeful 6-of-21 from 3-point land (54.5% TS). Ball and LaVine were the only Bulls who hit more than one triple.
LaVine was the Bulls 2nd leading scorer by a wide margin with 27 points along with nine rebounds. But it was a rough close for him in the fourth quarter, where he committed untimely turnovers and took difficult shots while trying to do too much. This should be viewed as a learning experience for LaVine for future crunch-time experiences now that he has DeRozan alongside him: figuring out when to initiate your own offense and when to delegate will be key moving forward.
Beyond DeRozan and LaVine, only Lonzo Ball hit double-figures with 13. Nikola Vucevic continued his season long offensive struggles, going 2-of-7 from the field for just four points. He did have 10 rebounds and six assists, but the Bulls are going to need more consistent offense from Vucevic like we saw last season.
The bench had its moments in the second half in erasing another big deficit, but ultimately were outscored by Philadelphia’s reserves 30-13. They filled out the rest of the box score as though Caruso had six points he also added six assists, three rebounds and two steals. DJJ had two blocks and two steals. Ayo Dosunmu hit a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter from the same spot as last game, but overall came down to earth as those were his only points in 13 minutes. Tony Bradley showed nice energy and defense and was a team-best plus-11 despite the mere 2 points and 2 rebounds, continuing to make his presence felt with size and rim protection.
This was a tough loss for the Bulls, they made another furious comeback only to fall short this time. They continued a trend of starting poorly, but this game combined with some poor play down the stretch. While the Bulls showing this kind of fight is nice, they can’t make a habit of falling behind by so much.
Chicago now has a couple of days to rest before welcoming these same Sixers to the United Center on Saturday night.