The Bulls Thursday retained their playoff position tied with Indiana for the seventh/eighth spots in the Eastern Conference after a 102-90 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Bulls essentially led the entire game after the first few minutes. They led by 10 points after the first quarter, by six at halftime and by 13 after three. The Bulls were led by Jimmy Butler with a triple double. He had 19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Nikola Mirotic led the Bulls in scoring with 22 points. Emergency starter Jerian Grant had 15 points, eight rebounds and five assist. The Bulls got strong performances off the bench from Joffrey Lauvergne with 14 points and Bobby Portis with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The Bulls moved to 39-40. The 76ers are 28-51. The Bulls play in Brooklyn Saturday and then finish the season at home next week against the Magic and Nets.
The Bulls were facing a decimated 76ers team without Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Sergio Rodriguez, Jerryd Bayless, Robert Covington, and, of course, No. 1 pick Ben Simmons. Plus, rookie Dario Saric was on a minutes limit. Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade were out for the Bulls. With Rondo out again for Grant, it was the Bulls 21st different starting lineup of the season. Despite the 76ers’ absences, it was an uneven start for the Bulls, who took a 9-4 lead despite missing five of their first six shots. So imagine the 76ers shooting. But the 76ers came back within 11-10 after seven minutes and the Bulls brought in Anthony Morrow for Pau Zipser. It was Butler and Mirotic, the most recent one/two offensive punch and Morrow closed the quarter with a driving score for a 27-17 Bulls lead after one quarter. The Bulls looked like they might bury the 76ers with a good run from Bobby Portis and Lauvergne for a 40-26 lead midway through the second quarter. But the latest starters incarnation faltered. The 76ers ran off a 12-2 spurt with the Bulls careless with the ball again and taking unnecessary chances. The 76ers drew within 47-43 with 2:50 left in the half and the Bulls couldn’t shake them as the 76ers continued to spin the ball around the perimeter to keep the Bulls defense off balance. The Bulls maintained a 53-47 halftime lead with 11 points from Mirotic and 10 from Butler. The Bulls outrebounded the 76ers in the half, but the 76ers had more than half their points in the paint and had a 9-2 edge on second half points. The 76ers, though, were three of 18 on threes.
The Bulls had the fast start to the second half, moving the ball and playing with passion on defense as they ran off a 12-0 streak to take a 68-50 lead. But, typically, they seemed to relax, took quick shots and suddenly the 76ers were back in the game with a 10-0 run to get within 68-60 with 4:46 left in the third quarter. The Bulls recovered as Lopez had a putback and another good run from Portis gave the Bulls an 80-67 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Bulls had five players in double figures through three quarters. The 76ers could not get their three pointers to fall and the Bulls kept pecking away, Butler fouled on a three, Portis accurate with his shot and Lauvergne running the court for scores. With just over five minutes remaining, the Bulls led 92-78.