Sure, the Bulls Friday were dominated by the lowly Philadelphia 76ers and lost 117-107. But at least the Bulls still have the tiebreaker. OK, OK, it may not matter. Yes, the Bulls got beat left as things didn’t go right, either. The 76ers had an amazing 70 points in the paint. Well, at least no one among the Bulls decided to go skydiving. You hate it when your Starbucks barista says to have an adequate day.
It wasn’t even close to that as the Bulls at home fell behind the 76ers--geez, the 76ers, the team the Bulls had beaten 12 straight times—by 26 points, trailed by double digits the last 26 minutes; yes, the 76ers. And purportedly playing for the post season against a team long eliminated, the Bulls were outhustled, outproduced, outrebounded, outperformed, outclassed, outdistanced, outdone, outdueled, outshined, outflanked, outgained, outgunned and outdated in an outrageous and outlandish outcry.
They did appear to applaud politely as the 76ers to open the second half had a layup or dunk in nine of their first 11 possessions. The others were a jumper and offensive foul.
And so basically ended the game, though the Illinois Tollway did request some of the players to stand in for the IPASS lanes.
What went wrong, Rajon Rondo was asked.
“Everything,” he said.
“Looking at the points in the paint, 70-30; that tells you all you need to know about that game,” said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, who came across more critical than he had been all season. “For us to come out and play with that type of effort at this time of year, it’s maddening.
“They (defensive breakdowns) were all over,” he said. “I wish I could tell you one thing. They were driving by us. That’s where it starts, containing the ball, taking pride in your individual matchup and staying in front of your man, keeping him out of the paint. It was loose balls, rebounds; they got every one of them. You talk about winning the 50-50 game every night and it wasn’t even close.”
But about the halftime show, coach.
Well, no one got hurt, and no one got suspended, though Robin Lopez probably had his poorest game of the season at zero for six with one rebound in 18 minutes. Though even Elizabeth Barrett Browning would have had difficulty counting the depth and breath of the failures in this confounding meltdown against the team coming in with the conference’s second poorest record.
“I think everybody knows where we stand right now, on the outside looking in,” said Jimmy Butler, who often seemed like the only one playing in recording 36 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and shooting 16 of 21 on free throws. “Ain't too much to say.”
Yes, Jimmy hit it again.
The Bulls fell to 34-39 in losing their ninth in the last 12. The 76ers behind rookie Dario Saric’s career high 32 points moved to 27-45. Someone named Shawn Long, a rookie, also had a career high with 18. Bobby Portis had 18, all after the Bulls were behind by 23 late in the third quarter. Nikola Mirotic had 15, and for some reason was mostly ignored after scoring 10 points in the first quarter when the Bulls led 28-24. The Bulls, though still just a game and a half out of eighth, now are closer to 14th in the East than fourth. The Bulls are in Milwaukee Sunday.
It was difficult to figure what this game was about for the Bulls after what looked like an easy march to success with a 16-6 lead. Mirotic continued his hot streak and made a pair of threes, the Bulls were pushing the ball, moving. But then they eased into that cool mode we’ve seen so often against poor teams, laying off shooters, soft on the switches. They gave the 76ers life late in that first quarter, though still leading by four.
“I loved the way we came out of the gate and jumped out to the 10-point lead right away,” said Hoiberg, “And then we got loose with the ball and allowed them to get their confidence by turning it over and giving them transition baskets. That cut the first quarter lead from 12 to four. In the second quarter, they just completely took control of the game.”
It was 32-28 Bulls early in the second quarter when the reserves with Rondo self destructed. They had a turnover on a two-on-one break, lost the ball on an inbounds pass; Joffrey Lauvergne lost his magic from the Pistons game, Paul Zipser dropped a rebound out of bounds. Suddenly, it was a 10-0 Philadelphia run and a lead they never would give up. The young and inexperienced 76ers took advantage of every mismatch from the defensive switching, especially Saric. Sergio Rodriquez, who’s been playing in Spain, was unstoppable, driving through Bulls with ease. He had 11 points in the second quarter; the Bulls had 18.
It was 59-46 Philadelphia at halftime with some amazing stats: 58 percent shooting for the 76ers to 33 percent for the Bulls; 27-19 rebounding edge for the 76ers without all three of their centers who started the season. Someone named Richaun Holmes played center. He’s about 6-9. Actually, we know him. He’s from Lockport and went to Moraine Valley Community College. You don’t take guys from that program lightly. The 76ers started a second round pick, two undrafted guys, and a guy who played in France and Serbia the last four years. Long was another second round pick and Rodriguez has been out of the NBA since 2010.
“They outscored us in the paint pretty bad,” agreed Rondo. “They got layups and dunks for most of the game. Obviously, it gets magnified when you lose to Philly or a team you are supposed to beat; it’s been the same pretty much all year.”
That third quarter showed an astonishing lack of competitiveness for a team presumably facing some urgency. The 76ers scored on 11 of their first 12 possessions of the third quarter to lead 83-57. Butler did what he could, repeatedly battering his way back to the free throw line and trying to pick up on defense. But even he couldn’t hold off the 76ers, often caught in mismatches with the bigger Saric.
The Bulls showed some pulse to start the fourth quarter, scoring on their first nine possessions with Morrow rescued from the bench to make a pair of jumpers and Portis and Denzel Valentine making threes. It was 102-92 Philadelphia with 7:30 left. Hey, the Bulls have blown bigger leads later.
But the Bulls reverted to their desire for those 10-point plays.
Butler missed a three, and then so did Valentine. Saric didn’t miss his three and the 76ers could breathe leading 105-92 with 5:55 left.
Morrow made a jumper off a Butler offensive rebound, but Gerald Henderson made a three and it wasn’t too long before Hoiberg mercifully rested an exhausted Butler.
“There were so many things we weren’t doing that we were supposed to,” said Butler. “We didn’t come out playing harder than them. The urgency, the lack of wanting to do what we are supposed to do was very, very relevant tonight. Eventually we have to play some defense.”
Hey, anything worth not doing is worth not doing well.
There’s nine games left to give it a try.