10 observations: Bulls’ comeback falls short against 76ers


After trailing by as many as 18 points in the second quarter — and 12 entering the fourth — the Chicago Bulls drew to within one possession of the Philadelphia 76ers in the final minute of Wednesday night’s game.

But the contest ended in a 103-98 76ers victory, moving the Bulls to 6-2 on the young season, 3-1 on the road.

Here are 10 observations:

1. The Bulls got off to a flat start in this one, trailing 29-19 after the first quarter. In that period, Philadelphia shot 54.5 percent from the floor and 5-for-10 from 3-point range, while the Bulls were 1-for-7 from distance and generated zero free-throw attempts. Seth Curry led the way with 9 points, and enjoyed a handful of clean looks flying off of screens on which Zach LaVine got stonewalled.

2. A majority-reserve lineup buoyed by DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball cut that deficit to 35-32 at the 8:08 mark of the second, led by some splendid DeRozan shotmaking and the two-way impact of Ball, who buried a corner 3-pointer and swiped a steal which sparked a fastbreak chance that ended in an assist to Alex Caruso.

3. But the 76ers answered that spurt with 15 unanswered points, entering the halftime break ahead 58-44. While the Bulls’ reserves were the story in Monday’s comeback win over the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia’s second-stringers swung the momentum of this one early. Led by 12 points from Georges Niang, the 76ers had a 21-4 bench scoring advantage through two quarters, a reminder of the Bulls’ strained and inconsistent depth with Coby White and Patrick Williams sidelined.


4. All things considered, the Bulls did well to limit Embiid; the 76ers’ star center tallied just 8 points on 3-for-9 shooting in the first half — though he did hand out 5 assists — and ended the night with 18 points (6-for-18), 9 rebounds and 7 assists.

5. For the sixth time in eight games, DeRozan and LaVine both eclipsed the 20-point mark — and for the third game in a row, DeRozan cleared 30. With 27 from LaVine and 25 from DeRozan, the Bulls’ two star scorers had combined for 52 of the team’s 72 points through three quarters. The rest of the supporting cast didn’t offer much offensively.

By night’s end, DeRozan (37 points, his second straight game with that total) and LaVine (27) combined for 64 of the team’s 98 points on 24-for-46 shooting. The rest of the Bulls provided 34 points on 14-for-36 shooting. Going 6-for-21 from 3-point range, committing seven fourth-quarter turnovers, and relying on DeRozan for 12 of the team’s 18 free-throw tries, the offense was disjointed overall.

6. The Bulls trailed by 12 points entering the fourth quarter, and, similar to when they trailed by 14 through three in Boston, flipped the switch, particularly defensively. They opened the first five minutes (and change) of the period on a 15-3 run to tie a contest they trailed by as many as 18 points in the second quarter 87-87 with 6 minutes, 40 seconds to play. Once again, stops, steals and fastbreak chances — they scored 11 fastbreak points in the quarter — were the formula for success. Derrick Jones Jr., who finished 2 blocks and 2 steals in 17 minutes, had his most impactful stretch of the game early in the fourth.

7. While the Bulls never jumped in front, a DeRozan jumper pulled them to within 100-98 with 29.9 seconds to play. But a tightly-contested Curry dagger, which gave him 22 points, put Philadelphia up four with 10.7 seconds left. Then, DeRozan drove and drew a foul on Embiid at the rim that was later — controversially — overturned. The 76ers won the ensuing jump ball, then sealed it with a free throw and missed LaVine jumper.

"I couldn't see, where I was standing, the challenge there on Embiid," Donovan said, adding that the nearest official told him it was "clearly" not a foul. "You just kind of move on."

8. Similar to the team’s victory at the Raptors in October, DeRozan, who scored 12 in the final frame and looked as poised as ever getting to his spots in the midrange, was just about the only steady hand in the fourth. LaVine, after scoring 14 points in a terrific third quarter, went scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting with 2 turnovers (he finished with 5 giveaways). Nikola Vučević took — and missed — just one shot. As a team, the Bulls committed seven turnovers. It’s the Bulls’ second loss in six “clutch” games this season, and marks a break from stellar crunch-time execution in other contests.


9. The bench scoring — which ended a whopping 30-13 in Philadelphia’s favor — is one thing, but bad nights from Ball and Vučević were difficult to overcome. Vučević not only shot poorly, but took only seven field-goal attempts, scoring 4 points on 2-for-7 shooting. His slow start to the season continues. Ball hit three of six 3-point attempts and scored 13 points, but shot 2-for-5 inside the arc and committed 5 turnovers.

10. That’s the second game in a row the Bulls fell behind big. Though their comeback bid came up short in the end, the fight to claw back in the game on a night a lot went wrong was admirable. Still, Billy Donvoan said it best when referencing the toll playing from behind can take.

"These guys battle and fight, they don't give up. I have great respect and admiration (for that)," the Bulls coach said. "But I think it's hard to live like that."

Next up: Home for the 76ers again on Saturday. Tobias Harris (COVID-19 protocol) and Danny Green (left hamstring tightness) were out for this one, and appear likely to miss Saturday’s contest too.

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