It wasn’t a pretty win, but few victories this season have been worthy of charm-like quality for the Bulls.
The Sixers franchise-record of consecutive losses rose to 24 – making it the second-longest losing streak in NBA history – as the Bulls (39-31) handed them a 91-81 loss. The win pulled Chicago into a third-place tie with the Toronto Raptors for the third seed in the Eastern Conference and improves their record to 15-1 following their last 16 losses.
The first half was as ugly as can be, consisting of both teams shooting in the low 30’s, 25 combined fouls and 31 total free throws being taken.
Despite the futility, the Sixers outscored the Bulls in the paint 40-26, outscored them 22-9 in second chance points and hustled their way to 19 offensive rebounds, while outrebounding Chicago 48-44, making it the fourth time in the last six games they’ve been beat on the glass.
“You got to beat them to beat them,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We started off and didn’t play well and a lot of that was them. They were into us and (our) rebounding still wasn’t good, so we have to get that corrected.”
The Bulls were the benefactors of some horrid outside shooting by Philadelphia, who missed their first 18 3-pointers before finishing 1-for-20. They also forced the Sixers into 34.5 shooting from the field.
Despite inching closer to tying Cleveland’s NBA-worst 26-game losing streak, which was set in 2010-11 ALBJ (After LeBron James), the Sixers played like the hungrier team throughout the game. It’s a trait the Bulls can identify with and respect.
“You got to give a lot of respect to that team,” said Joakim Noah, who led the Bulls with 20 points. “Even though they’ve lost so many games, they play hard every night. People don’t realize how hard it is to win in this league, even against a team like (Philadelphia) who has lost so many games in a row. I respect the hell out of that team because they play hard every night.”
Jimmy Butler added 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while Taj Gibson and D.J. Augustine added 16 apiece off the bench.
With 12 games remaining on the schedule, the current rebounding woes might be a sign of fatigue as the team has had little margin for error this season with scoring being at a premium.
“It’s a concern,” Noah said. “We’ve got to come back with a better effort. Overall, I think the last five, six games our rebounding hasn’t been great, but it’s definitely something we can correct.
“We can’t take anything for granted. We just have to go out there and do it.”
Only four of their remaining slate of games to close the season will be against teams who are currently in the playoffs. All season long, energy and effort hasn’t been a question for the Bulls, it’s been about execution.
“We’re taking every game one-by-one,” Augustin said. “We’re not looking too far ahead, but at the same time, we know that we’re fighting for that third seed and we’re just taking it a game at a time.”