Andre Iguodala and the Philadelphia 76ers ran over the Chicago Bulls in 98-82 victory on Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center.
With two starters out and the reigning MVP, Derrick Rose, under the weather, the Bulls were no match for the reemerging 76ers. The quick, athletic Sixers scored 29 points off of the Bulls 17 turnovers. Philadelphia piled up 21-fast-break points to Chicago’s four. They had more rebounds, more second-chance points and way more energy, particularly in a 26-11 third quarter. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who was named the Eastern Conference coach of the month for January, was forced to pull his starters in the fourth and played his reserves the entire period, as they cut a one-time 20-point deficit to 12.
Iguodala outplayed Rose and tortured the Chicago with highlight-after-highlight the entire night. His one-handed dunks, around-the-back passes, and big three’s helped the Sixers pull within one game of the Eastern Conference leading Bulls. Philadelphia confidence was almost blew the roof of the Wells Fargo Center. The sluggish Bulls closed a ragged second quarter in strong fashion to pull with 49-44. Then, they failed to score a field goal for the first 6:29 of the third and committed six turnovers in the period. Iguodala scored nine points in the third as D. Rose went 1-of-5 from the floor as the Chicago missed 13-of-16 shots, as the Sixers held the Bulls to 11 total quarter points. Iggy wowed the crowd on a fast-break when he took the ball behind his back, then tossed a scoop pass, in stride, to the Sixers starting point guard Jrue Holiday for a jumpers and a 58-46 lead. Iguodala’s performance stunned the Bulls as he was connecting from everywhere. Late in the third, the 76ers’ Lou Williams and rookie power forward Lavoy Allen hit consecutive jumpers, and Holiday finished with a 3-pointer to lift Philadelphia to a shocking 75-55 lead. It wasn’t much of a contest after that.
Sixers’ head coach Doug Collins scolded his team after Monday’s victory over the Orlando Magic. He demanded more from his squad after the let a big lead turn into a soft finish. On Wednesday, the 76ers rewarded their coach. The Bulls pulled within 12 points, behind strong play from C.J. Watson off the bench, but Thaddeus Young prevented Chicago’s late rally with two straight buckets and Philadelphia’s lead was back up to 15, 92-74. The Sixers never relinquish their lead and put the rest of the Eastern Conference on notice- they’re the real deal.
The 76ers (16-6) had used a soft schedule to race to their best start since the Allen Iverson era. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Philadelphia didn’t win their 16th game last season until Game 39. The Sixers won their fourth straight game and improved to 12-2 at home. Wins against the Magic and the Bulls should silence any detractors around the league who said Philly’s schedule was packed with lightweights from both conferences. Iguodala finished with 19 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. Holiday had 17 points and four rebounds, while Young scored 19, Allen had 15 and Williams 14, all made contributions off the bench for the Sixers. Second-year guard Evan Turner finished with two points, six rebounds and four assists. The 76ers beat Orlando on Monday, tamed the Bulls, and will go for the home-week sweep against the Heat on Friday.
The Bulls struggled without Richard Hamilton (right thigh) and Luol Deng (left wrist) in the starting lineup. Surprisingly, Watson led the Bulls with 20 points, four rebounds and four assists off the bench. D. Rose finished with 18 points and six assists, but committed four costly turnovers. Boozer was a non-factor with nine points and nine rebounds. Chicago will play their fourth game in as many nights in New York on Thursday night, when they travel to Madison Square Garden to face Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks.