After a quick stop at home on Thursday, the Bulls are back on the road with a swing through Philadelphia to take on the 76ers for the second time this season. Back on January 17th, Chicago visited the City of Brotherly Love and came out on the short end, 100-89. Zach LaVine recorded team highs in both points (23) and rebounds (seven) while rookie Coby White dropped 14 points coming off the bench. Philly's Furkan Korkmaz drained six 3-pointers and led all scorers with 24 points as Ben Simmons (20 points/11 rebounds/7 assists) posted a double-double.
Once again, Chicago got off to a solid start, leading 24-21 after 12 minutes, and 47-46 at the half. However, Korkmaz sparked the Sixers' offense in the third, hitting all four shots he attempted as Philly eventually took control of the game, outscoring the Bulls 35-24. The 6'7, second-year shooting guard out of Turkey finished 6 of 9 from 3-point range and 8 of 11, overall.
The Bulls come into this afternoon's game desperately looking to get back on track after losing four in a row. In their last outing, the New Orleans Pelicans flew into the United Center and, despite the somewhat respectable final score (125-119), never really felt any fear of losing the game.
After coming out of the gates fast and landing a solid punch to the nose of the Pels in the first couple of minutes of the first quarter, New Orleans got its act together and ran out to a 32-25 edge by the end of the stanza. New Orleans then put 40 points on the board in the second to take a 72-62 lead at the half, and then continued to blitz the Bulls to the tune of 31-19 in the third, removing any doubts that they were on their way to capturing a road win.
Once again, LaVine led Chicago with a team-high 22 points, followed by Chandler Hutchison with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Bulls two-way player Adam Mokoka entered the game with five minutes left to play and the Pels solidly in front. The rookie from Paris, France, has played most of the season with the G League Windy City Bulls, but after hearing his name called by Head Coach Jim Boylen, Mokoka quickly brought the home fans to their feet by knocking down all six shots he took, including going 3 of 3 from behind the arc, bringing Chicago back to within four points with just six seconds left. Unfortunately, New Orleans' Jahlil Okafor was able to tip in a missed free throw at the other end of the floor to put the Pels up six with just a couple of ticks left on the clock for the win.
As for Philadelphia, they too are struggling of late, having lost four in a row leading into their game on Friday against the Memphis Grizzlies. Heading into the weekend, Philly's sitting in 3rd place in the Atlantic Division, and sixth overall in the East, with a record o 31-21. They've proven mortal away from home, going 9-19 on the road. However, their home record of 22-2 (going into Friday) is the best in basketball. Thus for Chicago to come out on top tonight they're going to have to come out sporting a chip on their shoulder and dole out a consistent, hardnosed, blue collar effort from the moment the ball is tipped-off and not back off until the final buzzer sounds. To defeat a talented team such as the Sixers the Bulls must dig deep when it comes to energy and desire.
To be effective on offense Chicago must play fast, yet also poised. Turnovers must be kept in check, but at the same time the ball must also be freely shared, swiftly, and crisply skipping from player-to-player and from side to side in search of open shots or unprotected driving lanes to basket. Every Bull on floor and on the bench must stay engaged. The team must create a free-flowing, unselfish rhythm, where everyone moves and plays as one.
Defensively, the Bulls need to impose a determined effort, running shooters off the 3-point arc, going hard after every rebound, diving for every loose ball, and staying glued to their assigned man without endlessly fouling.
As a collective unit Chicago must commit to outwork and outexecute the Sixers in every possible way.