Bulls beat Sixers with strong finish
NBA teams move around the country in charter jets, but there are times when a club boards one of those flights exhausted. The next game is less than 24 hours away, and the team is expected to lose.
Especially when all the starters logged at least 39 minutes the night before against a Western Conference power.
But that didn't matter to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night as they gutted out a come-from-behind 96-89 victory over a much fresher 76ers team at the Wells Fargo Center.
"I thought we got a little tired," coach Doug Collins said, bemoaning the fact that he had to play Jrue Holiday for 40 minutes and Evan Turner for 42. "I thought fatigue was a factor."
It was. But the team that should have been most bothered by fatigue was not, especially late when the outcome hung in the balance.
After Holiday put the Sixers ahead, 80-79, with an 18-foot jumper, the Bulls scored seven consecutive points, taking an 86-80 lead on reserve guard Marquis Teague's driving reverse layup with 3 minutes, 32 seconds remaining.
The Bulls (12-9) who got 19 points and 12 rebounds from Luol Deng and 21 points and seven rebounds from the oft-booed Joakim Noah, closed out the Sixers by outscoring them, 17-9, the rest of the way.
Holiday had 26 points and nine rebounds. Turner had 16 points and eight boards.
"In the NBA, you have to play whatever is in front of you," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Back-to-back doesn't matter. Readiness to play is huge in this league, and tonight, we showed that. We were tough."
The Bulls were without point guard Kirk Hinrich (knee), who has filled in while Derrick Rose recovers from knee surgery.
The Sixers lacked the requisite energy to put away an exhausted team, which was reminiscent of their effort in a lopsided loss to the Boston Celtics last week in the second of back-to-back games.
"We have to come out and execute, make shots, and impose our will on the game early," said Sixers forward Thaddeus Young, who finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. "I think they did a better job of that than we did. They said, 'OK, we're a little tired, so we are going to come out and work out of the post a little bit, get to the free-throw line a little bit and hopefully the game will take care of itself from there.' "
The Sixers made more of their shots from the field, but the Bulls won the game at the free-throw line. They made 24 of 26 foul shots while the Sixers made 5 of 11. The Sixers' failure to hit a single free throw in the first half marked the first time an NBA team has failed to make a foul shot in a half at the Wells Fargo Center.
Holiday and Turner combined to launch 43 shots from the field but went to the line just five times.
"We've got to do a better job of creating contact so we can get rewarded and get to the line," Collins said.
Contact John N. Mitchell at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @JmitchInquirer.