Lackluster on both ends of the court for most of the game, the Chicago Bulls were handed a 98-82 loss by the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Arena. The Bulls dropped to 18-6 this season and 1-2 on their season-long, nine-game road trip.
The Sixers (16-6) received an all-around effort, with five players in double figures, and dominated the Bulls in essentially every facet of the contest. Forwards Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young scored 19 points apieces and combined for 17 rebounds. Jrue Holiday orchestrated the home team's offense and posted 17 points, five assists and four rebounds. Lavoy Allen and Lou Williams led the Sixers' attack off the bench, scoring 15 and 14 points, respectively.
The Bulls, who were again playing without both Luol Deng (wrist) and Rip Hamilton (groin, thigh), had just two players in double figures. Derrick Rose put up 18 points and six assists in 31 minutes of action, while his backup, C.J. Watson, dropped 20 points -- 11 of which in a futile fourth-quarter comeback effort -- on four three-pointers. Carlos Boozer had only nine points and missed 7-of-11 field-goals. Joakim Noah, who had been bringing plenty of energy on a consistent basis over the past seven games and had notched a double-double in five straight games, missed all three of his shot attempts en route to a two-point night.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau's bunch actually got off to a blistering start in the first quarter, shooting 7-for-11 and taking a 15-9 lead about midway through the period. However, Philadelphia took a 27-21 lead through one quarter of play, finishing the stanza on an 18-6 run. Still, the Bulls hung around, with Thibodeau giving a Rose-Watson backcourt an extended look, trailing 49-44 at halftime as both squads were essentially even, statistically, across the board. Unfortunately for the Bulls, their defense did not appear crisp from the outset -- and it got worse as the game wore on.
Fueled by a 13-3 run, the Sixers took a 62-47 lead with just over six minutes left in the third quarter. Iguodala had his club's first seven points of the third quarter on a pair of thunderous dunks and a three-pointer that he took in rhythm, in stride, following his own defensive rebound. The Bulls were outscored 26-11 in that frame and never recovered.
The Sixers shot almost 48 percent from the field; outrebounded the Bulls 43-37; scored 29 points off the Bulls' 17 turnovers; and piled up 46 points in the paint to the Bulls' 28. And not to mention that Philadelphia's bench had 51 points to Chicago's 38.
There's no question that Thibodeau will be upset with his team's effort and poor second-half showing. The veteran coach took his frustration out on the officials throughout the game. His team was within 12 points a couple times in the fourth quarter -- but it had no shot to win given the fact that the Sixers had put the clamps down defensively as the Bulls shot just 43.2 percent for the game, including 3-for-15 in the third quarter.
The short-handed Bulls needed a well-balanced attack with Deng and Hamilton sidelined, similar to the one they got in Monday's 98-88 victory over the Washington Wizards, but the supporting cast didn't provide much. Rose, Boozer and Noah all sat out the entire fourth quarter, with the Bulls' fourth game in five nights looming Thursday.
The Bulls' 6-foot-11 center was forced to cover a lot of ground all night due to Boozer's defense, or lack thereof, as Bulls announcer Stacey King pointed out at various junctures of the game. The much-maligned Boozer continues to have his struggles against teams above .500, which is a major problem for the Bulls because there's only so much of the offensive load the reigning league MVP can carry.
Next up, the Bulls are right back to work in a nationally televised game Thursday night against the New York Knicks (8-13) at Madison Square Garden.