PHILADELPHIA – Their last meeting came during one of the more surprising runs of success in the NBA this season.
The Bulls were able to squeak by the upstart Sixers at the United Center on December 18th, racking up their sixth victory in a streak of seven following the return of Nikola Mirotic. But there was one thing missing for their opponents that night – the presence of Joel Embiid.
The team’s leading scorer was sitting out for rest on a back-to-back and the Bulls were able to take advantage in a 115-113victory. Not so much when the teams met again in Philadelphia on Wednesday night, as the 7-foot-1 center was present and accounted for at the Wells Fargo Center.
You could see the difference – in the score and on the floor.
Embiid led the Sixers with 22 points and got a lot of help from rookie Ben Simmons, whose triple-double paced the Sixers to a 115-101 victory. It’s a tough way to end a Bulls’ road trip that began with a strong win at Atlanta, but the performances trailed off after that.
After blowing a 16-point fourth quarter lead in a double overtime loss to the Pelicans on Monday, the Bulls were never really able to keep pace with their hosts. The Sixers built a 13-point lead in the opening quarter and had it a 14 points at the half. The combination of Embiid and Simmons (19 points, 17 Rebounds, 14 Assists) helped Philadelphia build as much as 25-point advantage before the Bulls trimmed it to 14 by the end.
The team continues to struggle without Kris Dunn, whose face-first fall against the Warriors last Wednesday has kept him out of the past three games for the Bulls and will probably do the same against the Lakers Friday at the United Center. Bobby Portis led the Bulls in scoring off the bench with 22 points with Zach LaVine contributing a season-high 21 as his 24 minutes a game stretch continues.