GAME NIGHT FROM THE UNITED CENTER: Philadelphia (30-25, 12-15 on the road) at Bulls (20-37, 13-16 at home).
TV: NBC Sports Chicago: Neil; Funk and Stacey King: 7PM CT tipoff.
RADIO: 670 The Score: Chuck Swirsky, Bill Wennington, Steve Kashul. 6:45PM CT pre.
LEADING SCORERS: Bulls: Lavine 16ppg. Philadelphia: Embiid: 23 ppg.
LEADING REBOUNDERS: Bulls: Markkanen: 7. Philadelphia: Embiid: 11.
LEADING ASSISTS: Bulls: Dunn: 6. Philadelphia: Simmons: 7.
SEASON SERIES: 1-1.
December 18, 2017 at United Center: Bulls 117 Philadelphia 115. Seven double-figure scorers for the Bulls. Justin Holiday scored 20 points, all coming in the first half.
January 24, 2018 at Philadelphia: 76ers 115 Bulls 101. Ben Simmons recorded his second triple-double against the Bulls with an impressive 19-17-14 stat line.
CCI 24 SECONDS COMMENTARY: First game back since the All Star break and I am fired up. Are you? If not, you should be.
NEW LOOK LINEUP: The Bulls will go with Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, David Nwaba, and Cristiano Felicio as their starters tonight as the organization’s main goal of developing young players has been consistent from day one. Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine have become core pieces as the Bulls move forward in their plan to set the foundation of winning basketball in the ensuing years.
The Bulls are going to get a long look at Cam Payne, with an eye toward formulating a plan for the 2018-19 Bulls roster. The Bulls have earned the respect around the league for their hard work, hustle and desire to compete, despite the win-loss record. It speaks volumes about the character of this roster and the job Fred Hoiberg and his staff are doing. The Bulls have 25 games left on the schedule and each one is valuable.
THE PHILADELPHIA STORY: The process continues, and barring any unforeseen major setback to Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons, the 76ers should be headed to postseason ball for the first time since 2012. Philly is among the best defensive teams in the NBA and rank first in rebounding. They also have a propensity to turn the ball over at a high rate. They lead the NBA in that dubious department, averaging 16 per game.
Simmons played in the Rising Stars Game on All Star Friday night, but was clearly disappointed as he was bypassed three times to make an appearance in the varsity game Sunday. Simmons has six triple-doubles in his rookie season and two against the Bulls in as many outings. He is such a gifted player, but his priority this offseason in the gym is to take free throw after free throw after free throw. He’s shooting only 56% at the line. He’s 0-10 from three-point range, so it’s safe to say there’s plenty of work to do.
Embiid has played in 44 of a possible 55 games, and recently played in both games of a back-to-back. He’s having a monster year that's reflective of his first All Star appearance. I truly hope this young Philly team stays healthy over the long haul, and that includes number one overall pick Markelle Fultz, who has appeared in four games, totaling 76 minutes the entire season. The story line on Fultz gets a bit complicated, so I’m hoping over time that things turn out for the best. Philly gave up a bundle to secure the number one selection.
CCI WANTS TO HEAR FROM YOU: Thoughts on the Bulls remaining 25 games?
Who wins the Eastern Conference?
Is Houston better than Golden State?
With the drama going on in San Antonio with Kawhi Leonard, what happens to the Spurs over the next two months?
Who is the next player to receive a buyout and join a contender?
Who wins MVP? It’s VERY close.
ONE FINAL THOUGHT: By no stretch of the imagination am I a movie critic, but during the break, I saw Black Panther and it was fabulous.
Always a pleasure!