After an eight day break, the Chicago Bulls are set to start the second half of their 2020-21 season. Overall, it was a good first half as they finished 16-18 and are in the race for at least a play-in tournament spot. The Bulls currently sit 9th in the Eastern Conference and are only half a game out of the seventh seeded Charlotte Hornets. The East continues to be a log jam as only three games separate the fourth and 11th spots. So there is room for the Bulls to go on a run of wins and see them climb in the standings. However, the schedule projects to be much harder in the second half for Chicago. So while the Bulls have won games against non-playoff teams, they are going to have to get some victories against some playoff teams in the coming months. Their first test starts tonight against at team with the best record in the East.
The Philadelphia 76ers were one of the top teams in the league in the first half of the season. They have a record of 24-12 and have a half game lead over the Brooklyn Nets for the number one seed in the East. The 76ers walked into the All-Star break on a good note, winning four of their last five. In their most recent game, Philadelphia beat the Utah Jazz 131-123 in overtime thanks to a whopping 40 points and 19 rebounds from Joel Embiid. Tobias Harris also pitched in 22 as it was enough to beat Donovan Mitchell’s 33 point effort.
This is the second time these two teams have met. In their previous matchup, it was the Embiid show as he scored a career high 50 points. Wendell Carter Jr. had no answers on defense with the MVP candidate getting any shot he wanted. The Bulls put up a great effort in this game and were within striking distance late in the fourth quarter. Zach LaVine had a decent scoring game with 30 points but struggled in terms of efficiency (nine of 28 from the field). But some clutching shooting by Embiid was enough for Philly to win 112-105.
However, Philadelphia will be massively short handed in this game. Both Embiid and Ben Simmons have been ruled due to health and safety protocols. The duo missed the All-Star game as well because of contract tracing. This opens the door for the Bulls to possibly grab a win against a playoff team. Getting a victory in this one would be a great way to start the second half of the season.
Injury report: There is some good news for the Bulls as both Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter Jr. have been upgraded to “probable” for tonight’s game. Devon Dotson is listed as out with a right knee sprain.
For the Sixers, other than Simmons and Embiid, they will be missing Isaiah Joe, Paul Reed, and Rayjon Tucker as all three are playing in the G-League at the moment.
Game Time: 7PM CT
Odds: Without Simmons and Embiid, the Bulls are three and a half point favorites in this game. The total is set at 228 at most places but you can find 227.5 and 228.5 depending on where you look (all info via the Action Network).