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After stacking a month of strong play together in December to get themselves back into Play-In Tournament range, but the Chicago Bulls start off 2024 with a thud, losing to the Philadelphia 76ers 110-97.
Here’s how it happened.
1. The Sixers got off to a scorching hot start, scoring 43 points in the first quarter on 16-of-24 shooting, 7-of-11 on threes. Meanwhile the Bulls were just 7-of-25 from the field, 0-of-10 for 18 points.
Patrick Williams made the team’s first three-pointer with 5:30 left in the second quarter.
The Bulls finished 7-of-37 from deep, while the Sixers shot 12-of-30. Though they cooled off after their hot start, the lead they built up was too big to overcome.
2. Joel Embiid absolutely dominated. In three quarters, he extended his 30-plus points, 10-plus rebounds streak to fifteen-straight games. It took him only 31 minutes to score 31 points on 10-of-20 shooting, 9-of-12 free throws, with 15 rebounds and 10 assists.
With Nikola Vucevic still on the sideline, the Bulls were limited on matchup options. Andre Drummond matched Embiid in minutes, with 28.
But none of it mattered.
Embiid was cooking from the mid-range, who was 5-of-8 on non-paint twos, dissected whatever defensive scheme the Bulls threw at him. They tried to double the post, but he shot over it or found the 76ers shooters for one of his double-digit assists.
Embiid has done a ton of damage over the past two seasons at the nail. Because his passing is such a threat, playmaking from the center of the floor becomes even easier if help comes — he doesn’t have to thread the needle all the way across the court.
And if you don’t send help, well, he’ll just drill jumpers in your face.
3. Coby White’s cold streak continues. After going 0-of-5 on threes against the 76ers, White is now 3-of-31 from deep in his last five games.
Despite the three-point struggles, White still scored 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting. He got to the line for five free throw attempts, and continues to put pressure on the rim and finish through traffic.
4. Julian Phillips got into the game during extended garbage time, and looked solid. He had seven points on 3-of-5 shooting, and looked comfortable pulling the trigger on threes when given the opportunity.
5. Alex Caruso, who was shooting 45.5 percent on threes prior to the game, was 1-of-6 in the game.
Given his limited volume, he regressed to 43.9 percent following the game.
Still, he’s 47-of-107 on the year, and on pace to smash his career-highs in three-pointers made (55) an three-pointers attempted (151).
6. The Dalen Terry experience is an interesting one. He airballed three shots, he had three turnovers and four fouls in 20 minutes.
But he also had seven assists, eight rebounds and was +14, though much of those stats accumulated during the fourth quarter.
Terry had some really nice moments defensively. He’s developed a good understanding of the floor, where to be and was even directing traffic to the rest of the team.
The jump shot is really holding him back, but there are some tantalizing skills there. Unfortunately, he needs the shot to come around to fully unlock them. Until then, he’ll be out there, making some great plays, and some head-scratching ones.
7. To the delight of many fans, Bulls undrafted two-way rookie Adama Sanogo finally got some run. I spoke with Sanogo a few days ago regarding his potential to get some minutes during Vucevic’s stay on the injured reserve.
He finished with eight points and six rebounds in just first chance at extended minutes.
8. Zach LaVine, who practiced with Windy City did not experience any setbacks. He will continue to practice with the G League affiliate at the Advocate Center while the Bulls are out of town.
Friday’s game at home against the Charlotte Hornets is not out of the question for a return.
9. Williams suffered an ankle injury in the first half, and was ruled out for the remainder of the game. He played just 11 minutes, scoring three points on 1-of-3 shooting.
10. White also turned his ankle towards the end of the third quarter and did not return for the fourth.
Up Next: Bulls have a chance to wash the taste out of their mouth tomorrow night against the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden.
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