PHILADELPHIA — Dwyane Wade has more than enough championship mettle to know what potential looks like, so his voice spoke volumes after the Bulls completed a 4-2 circus trip with a wire-to-wire 105-89 rout of the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night at Wells Fargo Center.
“When you have a new team together, once you get to that point where you realize you’re a good team, then you become a good team,” Wade said after scoring 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting. “I think on this trip, with the way we performed, we started to understand that we’ve got a good team and we can play with anyone in any building.
“That’s key for a team, especially a young team like us trying to come together. It’s early in the season still and we know we’ve got a long way to go. But to be 16 games in and we’ve played 11 on the road — not a bad start.”
Though the finale came against the lowly 76ers (4-12), who were resting oft-injured center Joel Embiid, the Bulls at least did what good teams do — start quickly and never let up. The Bulls (10-6) led 8-0 and 20-8 in the first quarter. And after the 76ers got within 25-24, the Bulls responded with a 20-6 run that gave them a 15-point lead and were never threatened. In the last game of a 12-game road trip, that’s an accomplishment.
“Doing what we’re supposed to do tonight,” Wade said. “Philly had their best player out and it’s the last game of the trip. We had to come out with a lot of energy at the start and that’s what we did. And just carried it throughout.
“This is a team that is growing and this is a good step in understanding how to take care of business against a team that shouldn’t be able to beat you. And the last game of a road trip — right steps in the right direction.”
Jimmy Butler, who averaged 28.3 points and 8.2 rebounds on the trip, scored 15 of his 26 points in the first half. Rajon Rondo added 10 assists, eight rebounds and six points. Taj Gibson had 12 points and six rebounds. Robin Lopez added 10 points and five rebounds.
“I thought Rondo was terrific all night — getting us out, throwing the ball ahead; getting baskets; attacking the rim,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “That’s where we’re at our best.”
The 4-2 mark is the best on the circus trip since the 1996-97 team went 6-1 en route to the Bulls’ fifth NBA title. This trip wasn’t as treacherous as most — the only team currently over .500 the Bulls faced was the Clippers (14-2). But they responded to both losses on the trip with victories.
“I thought the resilience of our guys showed after a couple of tough losses to bounce back with good performances — the togetherness that our guys displayed on the road,” Hoiberg said.
“When you’re on the road for 12 days, you come out either loving each other or hating each other — and I think our guys grew and got closer. It’s a fun team to be around, just because of the togetherness. I thought our focus in the shootaround [Friday morning] was absolutely off the charts. I knew we’d come out and play with effort.”