I know you’re going to find this hard to believe…
…but the Philadelphia 76ers have been on fire lately.
The Sixers opened the season at Los Angeles Clippers-like 3-13 and then ripped off eight wins in their last 11 games heading into tonight’s matchup with the Bulls. They had held 12 of their last 13 opponents below 100 points. And in their nine games this month, their foes had been averaging only 89.2 PPG.
For perspective, the Miami Heat lead the league in Opponents PPG at 91.5.
Enter the Bulls, minus Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, and fresh off a home court loss to the Clippers.
So, naturally, Chicago annihilated Philly. And that annihilation couldn’t have been more complete unless the earth opened up, swallowed the Sixers and spit up a pile of pulpy meat and broken bones.
It’s hard to put this beating into words, so allow me to put it into numbers: The Bulls shot a season-best 64.5 percent while holding the Sixers to a season-low 35.0 percent. Chicago outscored Philly 28-9 on the fast break and 52-26 in the paint. The Bulls blocked nine shots and forced 18 turnovers. They outscored the Sixers 31-11 in the third quarter and led by as many as 51 points before settling for a 45-point win.
Said former Bull Elton Brand: “It was a good, old-fashioned butt kicking. They did whatever they wanted. They scored on eight of their first 11 plays and we couldn’t come back. They scored at will.”
Did they ever.
Derrick Rose — of course — led the charge with a game-best 12 assists and a co-game-high 22 points. By comparison, Philly had 13 assists as a team. Rose went 7-for-13 from the field, 2-for-4 from downtown and a perfect 6-for-6 from the line. And I’d be willing to bet he was thinking about that miss at the end of the Clippers game every time he sunk a foul shot.
Carlos Boozer went 7-for-12 and finished with a double-double of 16 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Then there was Luol Deng, who simply continues to thrive as the team’s third offensive option, matching Rose’s 22 points on 10-for-14 shooting.
And how ’bout Kurt Thomas? He must have gargled with some water from the Fountain of Youth, because Thomas turned back the clock big time, finishing with a Noah-esque 12 points (6-for-10), 8 rebounds and 5 blocked shots. During Kurt’s 28 minutes of playing time, the Bulls outscored the Sixers by 41 points.
Finally, there were significant contributions from bench players like C.J. Watson (14 points, 5-for-6), Kyle Korver (10 points, 4-for-4), Ronnie Brewer (9 points, 4-for-5) and Omer Asik (8 points, 3-for-3, 6 rebounds).
Said Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau: “There was not much not to like. We came out from the start with great energy. The shots went down for us early. Defensively we did a good job with body position and getting back challenging shots.”
Added Boozington: “We did a great job getting ready to play. We were disappointed at how we started the last game (and) it’s been a point of emphasis in the last couple days of practice. We did a great job of being ready offensively and being ready defensively.”
The blowout was especially sweet because the starters didn’t have to log many minutes. Deng was in the game 34 minutes, Boozer 30 and Rose only 29. That should help keep them fresh for tomorrow night’s game in Washington against a Wizards team that is without John Wall (out indefinitely with a bone bruise below his right knee) and has lost 11 of its last 13 games.
There are various things good teams do. One of those things is respond well to bad losses. That’s exactly what the Bulls did. They pushed the tempo. They played intense defense. They established their dominance and made an improving team look pathetic.
Not too shabby.