Enhanced Box Score: Bulls 109, 76ers 105 – March 20, 2023
Deep breaths, everyone. Deep breaths. It’s over. The Bulls have FINALLY beaten Joel Embiid. And naturally, it took two overtimes.
How is everyone feeling after that absolute ROLLER COASTER of a win against Philly?
The Bulls were far from perfect tonight. Indeed, they certainly let things get away from them on the offensive end at points down the stretch. But defensively, they were all over the 76ers tonight.
Not only did the Bulls snap their long-standing losing streak against Joel Embiid, but they also put an end to Philly’s 8-game win streak *and* extended their own streak to 3 games. They held the Sixers to just 105 points (again, in two overtimes), when Philly hadn’t scored less than 112 on their win streak.
The Bulls absolutely swarmed Philly defensively. They forced 19 turnovers, while committing only 10. They held James Harden to just 5 points on just 2-14 shooting. Embiid certainly got his, putting up 37 and 16, but he really did have to work for it. Stacey King did a great job breaking it down on the TV broadcast, but what makes Embiid so hard to guard is even when you bring over help to double team, that help defender almost has to anticipate the pass and get to Embiid before the ball does to even have a chance at stopping him.
It wasn’t all great for the Bulls tonight. Offensively, they struggled for stretches.
From the 2nd Quarter until about the 5-minute mark of the 4th Quarter, the Bulls played well offensively, moved the ball, pushed the pace, and made some nice plays in transition. But in the 1st Quarter (and then several more late-game situations), the offense was just plain stagnant. A lot of standing around, iso ball, and waiting for Zach LaVine or DeMar DeRozan to make an amazing play. I have nothing wrong with those guys running the show late, but they still need to work for better shots and keep defenses guessing. Zach and DeMar are still learning how to play with each other late, and if they can figure it out it’ll be fun to watch.
It’s nice to see the Bulls finally winning these close, “clutch” games as well. Too often, this year they’ve let close games slip away late, and now that’s two double-OT wins in their last 3 games and the latter coming against one of the hottest teams in the NBA.
Hopefully Caruso gets healthy fast. The Bulls adjusted to not having him in the lineup, but they clearly missed him early. They held their own fine defensively, but it very much threw off rotations and rhythm in that first quarter.
It wasn’t the best game for DeMar, Zach, or Nikola Vucevic, but they all made big plays when needed on both ends of the floor and finished with productive nights despite none of them really having their best stuff. To make a baseball analogy, the big 3’s effort tonight felt like when your ace doesn’t have his best stuff, but still guts out 7.0 IP and only allows 2 runs.
Last thing, because I’m in danger of rambling. Welcome back Javonte Green, who made an immediate impact defensively off the bench. And shout out to Derrick Jones Jr for coming up with the HUGE block on James Harden with just seconds left to maintain the lead.
It was a really solid team effort for the Bulls tonight, and now a 3-1 week looks so much more doable than it did just a few hours ago. The Bulls grinded out a massive win. Let’s go win another on Wednesday.