CHICAGO — It appeared Ben Simmons was just putting the finishing touches on his fourth career triple-double after a span midway through the fourth quarter when he showed off all facets of his versatile game.
Simmons and the 76ers looked to have to everything in control Monday in Chicago when they overcame a 12-point second-half deficit to build a nine-point lead with 5:51 left in the fourth quarter.
Simmons, who sparked a 13-2 fourth-quarter run, took a page out of the absent Joel Embiid's book by staring down Paul Zipser after a layup to give the Sixers a two-point lead with 7:52 remaining. Simmons then blocked Justin Holiday's shot to set up a three-pointer by Jerryd Bayless, and capped it off with another layup over Bobby Portis to extend the lead to seven.
Simmons also gave Portis the stare-down treatment while heading into a Chicago timeout. After a pair of Bulls free throws, Simmons grabbed an offensive rebound to set up a four-point play for Bayless to give the Sixers that nine-point advantage.
Simmons’ silent trash talk was ultimately premature. Despite being unofficially credited with a triple-double, following the game his stats were altered as he finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in a 117-115 loss after Chicago put together a late 16-2 run (see observations). The loss dropped the Sixers below .500 (14-15) for the first time since Oct. 30.
Simmons had a chance to tie or get the Sixers a win, but he missed a contested layup with 0.5 seconds left on the clock (see highlights).
“I tried to get to the rim and draw a foul, but it's hard to get a foul in the final quarter of a game like that,” Simmons said. “They're not going to call anything like that. It was a chance to win, but it didn't happen.”
The Sixers had no answer for Nikola Mirotic and Kris Dunn down the stretch as the Chicago Bulls extended their improbable winning streak to six games.
The Bulls are undefeated with Mirotic in the lineup. He got knocked out by Portis in a preseason practice, and the Bulls have won all six games since his return.
Dario Saric tried to keep the 76ers in the game with 27 points and six rebounds (see highlights).
Saric made a three-pointer with 39.4 seconds left to get the game within two, but Simmons couldn't capitalize after a defensive stop.
Saric scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, and was involved in what could've been a flagrant foul when he was pounded by Portis on a layup attempt with 3:49 left.
“I thought it was, and I asked for a review,” 76ers head coach Brett Brown said. “They said that Dario already had the ball at the free throw line and it was too late. But we'll see it in the light of day. It was my gut feel that it was. I'll be very disappointed if I go back and see the tape and I feel like I'm right.”
The Sixers were limited without Embiid, who sat out the first game of a back-to-back set. Trevor Booker and Furkan Korkmaz also missed game. Korkmaz is out indefinitely with a left foot injury and Booker missed the game after spraining his left ankle on Friday.
That trio of players joined Justin Anderson and Markelle Fultz on the shelf for this matchup, which left the Sixers severely shorthanded.
Despite the lack of bodies, seven of the nine Sixers that took the court scored in double figures.
Even with balanced effort, Brown was still in awe of Simmons’ all-around performance in the defeat.
"To think he can put up his signature on an NBA game like he does with so much room for improvement in some skill areas is exciting,” Brown said.