PHILADELPHIA — It took four years, but Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg finally got reacquainted with 76ers big man Joel Embiid.
Because of injuries, rest or bad timing, Embiid had never played against the Bulls despite being drafted third overall in 2014.
That didn’t mean Hoiberg wasn’t familiar with his game, having faced him twice during the 2013-14 season when Embiid was playing at Kansas and Hoiberg was coaching at Iowa State.
“He whupped our butts in college,’’ Hoiberg said Wednesday. “We beat him in the [Big 12] tournament. But the performance he put on in our building was one of the best college performances I’ve ever seen.
‘‘He did everything. He shot threes, blocked shots at the rim, got out and ran, post-ups, everything that he’s showing now. I knew right there that he was going to be a special, special player.’’
Embiid picked up where he left off, and this time he brought along a few friends in the 76ers’ 115-101 victory.
Embiid scored 22 points, and Ben Simmons had a triple-double within the first minute of the third quarter and finished with 19 points, 17 rebounds and 14 assists.
“I mean, [Simmons is] just real-ly big and can get to the middle,’’ Bulls guard Zach LaVine said.
“He dishes, and you just don’t know what he’s going to do, attempt to score [or pass]. Very indecisive with that, but they have a tough combo with him and Embiid, man. You gotta really help off Embiid, and [Simmons] cuts to the hoop, facilitates. They are good.’’
It was the second consecutive loss for the Bulls (18-30), who finished 1-2 on their road trip, head home for two games, then head right back on the road for a three-game trip on the West Coast.
They’re hoping to have their backcourt intact again. With point guard Kris Dunn sidelined with a concussion, Jerian Grant’s ballhandling was exposed late in the double-overtime loss Monday against the Pelicans. Against the 76ers, Hoiberg benched Grant to start the second half and went with David Nwaba to try to slow down Simmons.
“We thought [Nwaba] did a good job on Simmons and gave us our best opportunity to slow him down and play him one-on-one,’’ Hoiberg said.
But slowing down Simmons wasn’t their only problem. The Bulls shot 38 percent from the field, including 23 percent in the first quarter.
“I just think we didn’t come out with any grit or toughness,’’ Hoiberg said. “We obviously didn’t shoot the ball well, especially early in that first quarter. We defended OK. But our toughness was not there.
‘‘And then it just kind of became a my-turn shot. A guy took a bad one, and we said, ‘If he’s going to take a bad one, then I’m going to take a bad one.’ And it just kind of trickled down.’’
That trickle-down mentality needs to stop immediately if the Bulls want to get back to winning games.
“We just didn’t come out the right way,’’ said LaVine, who had a season-high 21 points. “Didn’t knock down shots at first; that didn’t help. We’re not good enough to come out and mess around like that, so we gotta bring that energy every time.’’
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