With a wave and a smile, the 76ers drop the Bulls to 6-3
The Bulls had their weaknesses exposed by undermanned Philadelphia. All-Star Joel Embiid had 30 points and 15 rebounds for the 76ers.
The Bulls don’t have the 76ers’ three-point prowess.
That was evident Saturday night after a 7-for-29 (24.1%) performance.
They still lack the discipline to play 48 minutes of consistent basketball against the Eastern Conference’s elite teams.
That has been apparent in three games, twice against Philadelphia and once against the Knicks.
And they certainly don’t have anyone like Joel Embiid.
He hit the dagger with 15 seconds left in the 76ers’ 114-105 victory, then waved goodbye to the United Center crowd in mocking fashion. Embiid had 30 points and 15 rebounds.
It was a message that the Bulls’ 6-1 start might have been more mirage than reality.
“The last two times we’ve played them, they made twice as many threes,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. “You don’t want to put [Nikola Vucevic] on an island with Embiid, but we have to do a better job of closing out [threes].’’
Considering Philadelphia (8-2) went 13-for-26 from three-point range, it was a pick-your-poison night.
In the end, the home crowd was mad because an argument could have been made that Embiid shouldn’t have been in position to even wave goodbye.
With just over 40 seconds left until halftime, Embiid dribbled the ball off his leg and was so angry with himself that he decided to throw a hook at the air. The problem was Lonzo Ball was walking that way, and the punch appeared to graze him. The Bulls (6-3) were down 54-45 at the time, and the play was reviewed. Embiid only received a technical.
The Sixers already were without Danny Green (hamstring) and had Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle in the health and safety protocol. Forget the fact that they’re still dealing with the Ben Simmons soap opera.
Sixers coach Doc Rivers is no stranger to coaching in chaos, but this might be his best job of navigating it, especially this early in the season.
“When you look at all the stuff, the clutter I like to call it, around the team, and we’ve ignored it,’’ Rivers said. “If I could say one thing about this team so far, and it’s early, just the togetherness they have. It’s a really close group, and all this stuff has kind of made them hunker in with each other, and it’s been good so far.
“Some teams do handle it well; some don’t. I just know personally I don’t focus on it. I don’t talk about who’s not playing.’’
While the Bulls have remained relatively “clutter-free’’ this season, they still have some serious growing pains to work through — specifically, staying connected offensively and defensively for an entire game.
While the hole wasn’t as deep as it was in Boston, then in Philadelphia earlier this week, a 14-point third-quarter deficit was a hole they seemed to be clawing out of most of the night.
“When we’re not shooting the ball well, we’ve certainly got to find other means to win the game,’’ Donovan said.
Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 32 points, DeMar DeRozan had 25 and Derrick Jones Jr. scored 12 off the bench.
“Once we get down, we decide to get more physical, decide to run and play downhill,’’ Jones said. “We’ve just got to start earlier.
“We’ll take it as a challenge.’’