Things didn’t get any worse for the Bulls than in the first five minutes of Wednesday’s game against the 76ers at the United Center.
They held on for one (a free throw by guard Zach LaVine) and allowed 23. Their first field goal didn’t come until nearly six minutes after Nikola Vucevic exercised his will and slammed a dunk.
But it turns out that the 76ers’ 22-point lead in the first quarter wasn’t the worst. Despite 76ers star Joel Embiid spending the entire second half in his locker room and teammate James Harden on the bench, the Bulls finished the first half 28 behind him, trailing him 116-91. We have achieved 3 consecutive wins. Achilles injury.
To make matters worse, forward DeMar DeRozan was sidelined in the third quarter with a right quadriceps strain and never returned. After that, he declined to meet with the media.
“It was a very similar game to Game 2 against Milwaukee in the playoffs. [last season]said coach Billy Donovan. ”[On Monday] In Philadelphia, it was double overtime and a hard-fought battle.
“It started from the beginning [Wednesday]We were always catching up. They were faster, sharper and better overall. ”
Donovan didn’t have an update on DeRozan’s condition, but he said recurring injuries are always a concern.
“We haven’t received any information that he will be out for a while,” Donovan said.
Earlier in the day, LaVine was detailing the Bulls’ new focus. The 76ers had him shooting 54.7% from the field and 48.1% from his three-point range before the reserves closed out the game. De’Anthony Melton scored his 25th, Tyrese Maxey his 21st and Tobias Harris his 20th.
The Bulls’ one win over Embiid, who were undefeated in their first 12 games, asked for a lot. That’s why it took him two overtime for the Bulls to make it on Monday. But his two wins against him in three nights was more than the Bulls could muster.
Not only did Embiid not play in the second half, he didn’t even emerge from the locker room after the break. He reportedly had a mild strain in his right calf and finished with 12 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists in 16 minutes, his 10th straight game with 30 or more points.
The Bulls showed little life offensively. LaVine shot 15-for-6 from the field and finished with 16 points and 4 assists. DeRozan went 0-for-7 from the field and scored just four points from the free-throw line. As a team, they shot 41% of him from the field and 24% of his 3-point range.
Guard Coby White came off the bench to lead the Bulls with 19 points.
“They didn’t come here and launch a brand new attack, we launched a brand new attack,” Donovan said. “Our pop and intensity just wasn’t where it needed to be.”
The loss cut the Bulls’ lead over the Raptors-beating Pacers to 1.5 games in a battle for the final play-in spot in the East.
Six of the Bulls’ remaining 10 games are on the way, including against the Clippers, Mavericks and Bucks.
What they proved Wednesday is that berth retention in play-ins is never a strong one.