Jimmy Butler’s 36 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in 42 minutes weren’t enough in the Bulls’ embarrassing 117-107 loss to the 76ers on Friday at the United Center.
“We do enough talking around here as it is,’’ Butler said when asked if this loss would force yet another team meeting. “I think everybody knows where we stand right now — on the outside looking in. Everybody knows where we want to be. Ain’t too much to say. Nine more, right? Nine? We gotta have ’em. As we said before the game, as we’ll say tomorrow and the day after that, probably the day after that. We gotta have ’em.’’
If the loss wasn’t painful enough, Eastern Conference playoff teams, such as the Pacers, stumbled.
The Bulls (34-39), however, are only 1½ games behind the Heat for the final playoff spot.
“For us to come out and play with that type of effort at this time of year, it’s maddening,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Especially after the [win Wednesday over the Pistons], you would have hoped that it would have carried over. We still have an opportunity, but if we come out with this type of effort, we don’t have a chance.
“We’ll get an opportunity in a couple days to strap them up again, and I sure hope like hell that we take it personal. Out there battling, fighting, that’s what it’s all about.’’
The embarrassment started in the second quarter, in what had to be one of the more gutless 12 minutes of basketball played by the Bulls all season.
Not that this team hasn’t had its share of meltdowns this year, but against a 27-win team? Inexcusable.
After the starters gave the second unit a cushion — thanks to 11 first-quarter points from Butler and 10 from Nikola Mirotic — the Bulls watched a 28-24 lead quickly disintegrate.
The Bulls couldn’t stop the Sixers in the paint. They allowed 35 second-quarter points, and 40 of the Sixers’ 59 first-half points came in the paint.
And the second unit that general manager Gar Forman has deemed the future of the franchise was basically nonexistent.
Denzel Valentine was minus-10, Bobby Portis was minus-12 and Joffrey Lauvergne was minus-17.
In the third quarter, the Bulls were outscored 34-25, with 26 of the Sixers’ points coming from inside the paint. The Sixers finished the game with 70 points in the paint.
“Lack of discipline in the game plan, whatever you want to call it,’’ Butler said of the breakdowns. “Truthfully, I think the game plan is really important, but if you’re going to not do what the game plan says, hey, go get a stop and no one will be mad at you. But we weren’t getting stops inside the game plan, outside the game plan.’’
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