Bulls beat 76ers without any drama afterward

SHARE Bulls beat 76ers without any drama afterward

This Bulls team is still broken, but Sunday was a good day to be fitted for a splint.

Thanks to 28 points from Jimmy Butler and 49 from their bench players, the Bulls ended an ugly two-game skid,  during which two veterans criticized young players, another veteran criticized the first two veterans, fines were handed out and Butler and Dwyane Wade were benched as punishment.

No wonder coach Fred Hoiberg was calling the 121-108 victory over the 76ers “a critical point of the season.’’

“I think the biggest thing was we played the right way,’’ Hoiberg said. “We played with great effort, and that’s what it’s about. If you give an honest effort every night, you’re going to give yourself a chance. Not to say we’re going to win, but we’re going to be there. That’s what this group has to do.’’

Hoiberg employed such words as “togetherness’’ and “unity,’’ which weren’t in vogue five days earlier.

Wade and Butler made national headlines for criticizing their teammates’ effort and questioning how much they cared about winning and losing. Rajon Rondo then went on Instagram and lit into Butler and Wade, questioning their leadership skills.

A 40-minute team meeting/venting session Friday was the first step toward healing a fractured locker room. Wade actually practicing with the team for the first time in months Saturday was a good second step.

Winning, however, is all that matters.

“We got to go out and act upon everything,’’ Butler said. “We talked about it, and now we’ve got to be about it. I think this is a great start. We’ve just got to string it together like I’ve been saying all year long. Now, it’s more important than ever. You can’t look back on how we’ve been playing and what has happened. Live for the right now and what we’re going to do moving forward.’’

Hoiberg still has to be concerned about his team’s complacency over the course of a game.

The Bulls had a 37-23 lead after the first quarter. With 9:30 left in the half, the lead had grown to 20 points after a free throw by Rondo.

But this would not be a stroll for the Bulls (24-25). The 76ers tied the game with 4:43 left in the third quarter on T.J. McConnell’s 15-footer.

But Butler was just too much for the 76ers (17-29), who were without talented big man Joel Embiid.

Butler made a 19-footer, then had back-to-back baskets a few minutes later to get the lead back up to 92-83, and the 76ers would get no closer the rest of the way.

“It’s always good to win, no matter what goes on around here,’’ Butler said. “I think everybody wants to win. I think our hearts are pure, and when it’s like that and we’re playing like we did, we’ll win a lot more games.’’

Hopefully, with less drama.

During his news conference after the game, Hoiberg was asked if he could sum up the last five days.

He gave a long pause, smirked and simply said no before getting up and leaving the press room.

That said it all.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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