Bulls finally solve Embiid in double overtime thriller
|Tuesday, March 21, 2023, 8:05 AM- -|
PHILADELPHIA - It has been a long time since there was a streak like the one the Philadelphia Sixers (48-23) have had against the Chicago Bulls (34-37). Since entering the league nearly a decade ago, Philadelphia Big-Man Joel Embiid has been a one-man wrecking crew against the Bulls as he entered Monday's game with an unbeaten record against Chicago.
That doesn't mean the Sixers have gone unbeaten in that time as Embiid has missed games with injuries, but when he was on the floor, Embiid has posted an unbeaten record against the Bulls. Led by a trio of 20-point scorers and a stingy defense, the Bulls wanted to ensure that streak wouldn't continue as they made the Sixers for every point.
Even with Embiid carrying them down the stretch, Chicago continued to take the Sixers best blows and went into overtime not once, but twice. Clinging to a late lead, it was an unsung hero coming through as Derrick Jones Jr. picked up the game-saving block against James Harden as the Bulls picked up their first-ever win against Embiid 109-105 in double OT.
As expected, the Bulls will go as far as their big three take them, and once again, they were on the same page Monday. Despite a terrible shooting night from distance and two of the three shooting below 50%, the Bulls continued to battle as Zach Lavine led the way with 26 points. He has been one of the better players in the league since January and has helped this Bulls team remain afloat during the second half.
One of the biggest reasons why this team has started to play their best basketball at the perfect time is the return to form from Demar DeRozan. After dealing with some hip pain in February, DeRozan has bounced back in a huge way and added 25 points on eight rebounds for a near double-double.
Speaking of double-doubles, Nikola Vucevic had the tall task of matching up with Embiid and more than held his own on the floor. He picked up 21 points to give the Bulls another potent scoring option and added 12 rebounds as his resurgence of a season continues. While those three carried the load offensively, Patrick Williams and Patrick Beverley did next to nothing as they combined for 12 points in the starting lineup.
That meant that others had to step up off the bench, and Coby White continued to answer the bell. Although he struggled with his shot from distance, White has been the one consistent three points shooter on this team and led the second unit with 11 points. Chicago also got 10 points from Jones Jr, who added the game-winning block to his line as he played as important a role as anyone.
Ayo Dosunmu and his four points was the only other player to score in the game for Chicago. The Bulls also received a massive lift for the stretch run as Javonte Green returned to the lineup and played sparingly. If his minutes can increase in the final few weeks, this guy can help this team win critical games down the stretch.
When you have an unbeaten record against a team nearly 10 years into your career, you will have massive games against them. Monday was no different for Embiid as the big man had his way with the Bulls yet again. The Center led the way with 37 points while posting 16 rebounds in the loss.
A big reason for the Sixers quiet rise to the No. 2 seed in the East has been the abundance of balanced scoring to take the pressure off Embiid and Harden. With Harden only finishing with five points on Monday, that scoring boost was extremely important, with Tyrese Maxey doing his part to help out. Another player capable of having big games, Maxey put up 22 points and gave the Sixers offense a much-needed boost that wasn't coming from Harden.
Philadelphia also had a strong showing from Deanthony Melton off the bench as he led the second unit with 19 points and connected on five triples. Unfortunately, when the rest of your bench only scores four points, it does you no good, as the Sixers second unity struggled to find a consistent rhythm. Tobias Harris rounded out the double-digit scoring for Philadelphia, finishing with 14 points and nine boards.
With the win, the Bulls are the closest they have been to the .500 mark since early January and have extended their lead over the No. 11 seed in the playoff race. They have also put themselves in a position to overtake the No. 9 seed, possibly reaching the seventh or eighth seed by the season's end.
Chicago will look to keep their winning streak alive on Wednesday when this same Sixers team makes the trip to the United Center.