The Bulls were undermanned and overwhelmed in season opener in Philadelphia

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PHILADELPHIA — One habit Fred Hoiberg has steered clear of during his Bulls coaching tenure is feeling sorry for himself.

That stance was tested Thursday.

Hours before watching his young Bulls being run off the floor in a 127-108 season-opening loss to the 76ers, Hoiberg already was dealing with a training-camp elbow injury to Lauri Markkanen that would keep the 7-footer sidelined until late November and a $40 million free-agent pickup in Jabari Parker who already had played himself from starter to reserve.

And the jabs kept coming, as Hoiberg also would have to start Year 2 of the rebuild without point guard Kris Dunn, who had to leave Philadelphia for the birth of his first son.

“You can’t,’’ Hoiberg said when explaining why he eschews a woe-is-me attitude. “It happens in this league. Kris, you know, welcomed a baby boy, and that’s why he’s missing. So happy for him, and obviously it’s a huge thing. . . . We’ll do the best with what we got.’’

As Philadelphia proved, what the Bulls got wasn’t close to good enough.

After actually hanging around through the first half — and scoring 41 points in the first quarter —against a 76ers team projected to challenge for a top spot in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls watched a respectable 65-58 halftime deficit get out of hand in the second half, thanks to a 19-3 run to start the third quarter. They had no answer for All-Star Joel Embiid.

Rookie Wendell Carter Jr. tried, but he learned in his first real NBA game — and first start — that playing against Robin Lopez in practice is one thing. Embiid was a mountain he wasn’t ready to climb.


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That became evident early, as Embiid manhandled Carter in the first five minutes, scoring 12 points on 4-for-4 shooting. Embiid finished with 30 points.

“[Embiid is] a phenomenal player,’’ Carter said. “Very big, very skilled, very poised. I tried to study up as much as I could, but at that point, it was more of an effort thing. I didn’t go out there with my best effort. It’s a learning experience. I don’t want to put too much on myself. It’s the first game. It would be different if it was the 50th or 60th game. Just going to move on.’’

It wasn’t the only mismatch for the Bulls, either.

With Dunn missing, Hoiberg threw different looks at point guard Ben Simmons, including Cameron Payne, who started in Dunn’s place. There was a little Justin Holiday and Zach LaVine along the way, but Simmons didn’t seem bothered, finishing with a triple-double — 13 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.

The Bulls did have some life at the start, when neither team seemed interested in stopping the other. The Bulls came out of the first quarter leading 41-38, thanks to LaVine scoring 15 of his team-high 30 points and Bobby Portis chipping in 13.

“There’s four quarters to a game,’’ LaVine said. “[Philadelphia] did a good job of staying in the game. We just had to play defense a little more. In the second quarter, we just got stagnant. Third quarter, they just came out and [whupped] us, and we couldn’t recover from it. That’s what we got to learn from.’’

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