Chicago Bulls

Sixers 125, Bulls 109: T.J. McConnell, Zhaire Smith, Jonathon Simmons shine in Game 82 win over Bulls

Sixers 125, Bulls 109: T.J. McConnell, Zhaire Smith, Jonathon Simmons shine in Game 82 win over Bulls

BOX SCORE

It was a game that resembled The Process more than the playoffs, but the Sixers will head to the postseason on a winning note.

In Game 82, T.J. McConnell shined while Zhaire Smith and Jonathon Simmons looked playoff-ready in a 125-109 drubbing of the Bulls to close out the regular season at the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday.

The Sixers finish the regular season at 51-31. The Brooklyn Nets appear to be their matchup in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, JJ Redick, Jonah Bolden and James Ennis all sat this one out.

Here are observations from the win.

• When GM Elton Brand said pregame that there's a chance that Embiid could miss Game 1 of the playoffs (see story), the game on the floor definitely felt secondary. Brand did reiterate multiple times that he was "optimistic" that Embiid would be able to play.

“He’s doing everything in his power to be ready for this weekend,” Brand said. “I was in Miami with him. We had a short meeting. He was on his way to HydroWorx, which is an underwater treadmill [facility.] He’s working his butt off to be ready. He’s focused on his diet, he’s focused on his body. I’m optimistic.”

Stay tuned.

• It was just Smith’s sixth NBA game, but there is a decent chance he’ll get playing time in the playoffs. From what we’ve seen, the Sixers might be OK. Sure, he’s 19 and he’s green, but you can see why he was a first-round pick.

Defensively, they won’t skip a beat with him in the game in the postseason. He slides his feet so well and has excellent instincts. On more than one play in this one he cheated off his man to help, but they were smart plays, not careless chances. Considering the lack of defensive options this team has had on the perimeter all season, you could do much worse than Smith.

There’s something there offensively as well. He’s raw for sure, but with his elite athleticism, he showed off a little slashing ability in this one. He went 2 of 5 from three and has shown that you can’t just leave him wide open.

This two-handed dunk on the baseline was nice.

He gets off the ground so quickly. There is a dunk contest in this kid’s future. He recorded 17 points on 7 of 13 shooting with five assists and four rebounds.

• If Brett Brown chooses not to use Smith because of the rookie’s inexperience, Jonathon Simmons has to be the guy that fills in for Ennis. Granted the last two games haven’t been against the stiffest of competition, but Simmons has actually looked good. He’s always been solid defensively and he hit a pair of threes in the first half. He has playoff experience and success on his resume. Simmons had a game-high 20 points (8 of 14), seven rebounds and five assists.

It’s puzzling that Brown mentioned Furkan Korkmaz was even a possibility to get postseason minutes. He’s a liability on defense and his offense just hasn't translated at the NBA level. He was 1 for 4 from three in this one, including one awful miss.

• In the ultimate matchup of grit, McConnell squared off against former Villanova star Ryan Arcidiacono. It was the most Spider-Man meme matchup ever. McConnell got the better of it, pouring in 18 points on 9 of 10 shooting with six assists. He just proved to be far too quick for Arcidiacono, getting to his spot on the floor in the midrange and not missing.

• Who doesn’t love seeing seven-footers bombing threes? Boban Marjanovic hit a pair for the first multi-three game of his career. He made his first career three back on March 23, and he hit another five days later in Atlanta. He doubled his career output in this one.

We also got to see nine-year veteran Greg Monroe connect on his first career three. Both backup bigs were strong on Wednesday. Marjanovic finished with 18 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two blocks while Monroe had 14 points and six rebounds.

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Sixers vs. Bulls: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers vs. Bulls: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Updated: 6:45 p.m. 

The Sixers (50-31) are back at it against the Chicago Bulls (22-59) in their final game of the regular season. All Sixers starters (Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid) are sitting this one out. Jonah Bolden is also out with left knee soreness. Mike Scott, who was questionable with lower back tightness, will play.

Here are the essentials:

When: 8 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center 
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

Here are three storylines to watch:

Bulls again …

Who’s ready for another game against JaKarr Sampson and the Chicago Bulls? Just a few days ago, Sampson, the former Sixer, dropped 29 points in the Sixers' victory over Chicago. Greg Monroe made his debut with the Sixers and Zhaire Smith and Shake Milton got some solid playing time. With the Sixers resting all of their starters, expect the focus to be on the youngsters.

Regular season wrap-up

In game 82 and with the No. 3 seed locked up, tonight is all about staying healthy. Whatever the outcome, the Sixers have finished with their second consecutive 50-win season. The last time the Sixers had back-to-back seasons 50-plus wins was the 1985-86 season.

Furkan Korkmaz

Furkan Korkmaz was back on the court Tuesday night for the first time since he tore his meniscus in mid-February, finishing with two points in seven and a half minutes. It’s going to take a little time for Korkmaz to get himself back to where he was, but even Brett Brown said that his return could prove timely.

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Sixers 116, Bulls 96: After sleepy start, Sixers take care of business

Sixers 116, Bulls 96: After sleepy start, Sixers take care of business

BOX SCORE

It was a bit of a sleepy start, but once the Sixers woke up, it wasn't pretty for the Bulls.

The Sixers broke their season-high three-game losing streak and took care of business in a 116-96 win at Amway Center Saturday night.

With the win, the magic number to clinch the Eastern Conference's third seed is one. A Celtics' loss against the Magic Sunday would do the trick.

It's also the Sixers' 50th win, securing back-to-back 50-win seasons for the first time since 1984-85 and 1985-86.

Jimmy Butler (back tightness) missed his second straight game.

Here are observations from the win.

• He was a game-time decision coming in, but Joel Embiid played in his 64th game Saturday, the highest mark of his young career. Considering the way things started and the injury issues he’d had, it’s great to see.

He got off to a bit of a slow start, but once the Sixers got it to him more on the block late in the second quarter, he started to impose his will. It helped the Sixers turn a one-point deficit into an eight-point lead at the half. He had 14 points on 7 of 11 shooting at halftime. He finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three blocks in 27 minutes.

• It was a weird first half for Ben Simmons. He was efficient, scoring eight points and making 4 of 6 shots, more than he took in the entire Milwaukee game. It looked like he left more opportunities out there. This is the type of team he should feast on. The Bulls have nobody that can match his athleticism and no true rim protector. It almost looks like he’s a little gun-shy right now.

You had to like this finish, which he made with his “off hand.”

There also looks like there is something there with the Embiid-Simmons pairing. We didn’t see it against the Bucks, but the chemistry showed up in this one.

Simmons had 14 points, four rebounds and four assists.

• Maybe the biggest shame of the Sixers’ recent losses — aside from the losses themselves — is the JJ Redick performances they’ve wasted. He’s been fantastic over his last 15 games, averaging 19.2 points and shooting 45 percent from three coming in. He finished with a team-high 23 points on 4 of 7 from three and 8 of 12 overall.

He also made this ridiculous shot.

It's amazing how routinely he hits shots like that. How many guys in the league can? If this is the version of Redick the Sixers get in the playoffs, it would be a huge boost.

• Neither backup center had an inspiring effort on the defensive end, but both looked good on the other end. Boban Marjanovic had trouble keeping veteran Robin Lopez in front of him but was his usual effecient self, scoring 10 points on 4 of 5 shooting. Jonah Bolden struggled at times playing more at the four, but he's shown enough that Brett Brown should feel comfortable playing the rookie there and allowing Tobias Harris to slide to a wing in the playoffs. He also hit three threes.

Newcomer Greg Monroe saw his first action as a Sixer. He recorded nine points in 10 minutes.

• The curse of Sam Hinkie was alive and well as Process Sixer JaKarr Sampson got off to a hot start. He had 17 points on 6 of 10 from the field before halftime. He finished with a career-high 29 points and was the only reason the Bulls were in this game at any point. The only other Chicago player in double figures was our old friend Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who had 14 points.

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