Bulls pull away late from pesky Sixers

Bulls pull away late from pesky Sixers
March 22, 2014, 9:30 pm
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Mark Strotman

Joakim Noah scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Jimmy Butler added 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists as the Bulls knocked off the lowly Philadelphia 76ers, 91-81, Saturday night at the United Center. Taj Gibson and DJ Augustin each scored 16 points off the bench to make the Bulls 16-1 in their last 17 games following a loss.

The Bulls had one of their worst offensive quarters of the post-All-Star break to begin this one, shooting just 25 percent and had more turnovers (six) than made field goals (four), which helped the Sixers out to a 25-20 advantage behind a balanced scoring attack — four players scored at least four points.

[MORE: Sixers coach Brown hopes Nerlens Noel can become Joakim Noah]

The ugly start — the Sixers missed all six of their 3-point attempts in the first quarter — included the two teams combining for 16 personal fouls and 23 free throw attempts — the Sixers made all nine of their attempts, while the Bulls went 10-for-14 from the charity stripe.

Gibson, who Tom Thibodeau said before the game deserved real consideration for the Sixth Man of the Year award, helped bring stability to the Bulls’ offense in the second quarter, scoring eight points and grabbing six rebounds. The Sixers were able to maintain the lead for most of the quarter until point guard Michael Carter-Williams picked up his third foul with less than 4 minutes to play. The Bulls used the Sixers’ shallow backcourt — Tony Wroten was out with an ankle injury — to their advantage, using a 10-2 run to end the half and take their first lead of the contest, 41-38.

The Bulls came out hot in the second half, pushing the lead to seven — and Jimmy Butler got the crowd, which had been quiet much of the first half, going with a dunk off an alley-oop from Mike Dunleavy. The Sixers pulled back within four, 57-53, before a pair of Noah jumpers pushed the lead back out.

[MORE: Bulls' Taj Gibson: Pacers have 'a lot of floppers']

But the Sixers, who haven’t won since Jan. 31, wouldn’t go away. Thaddeus Young scored nine points in the quarter and Henry Sims, who grabbed four offensive rebounds in the first half, added six more to keep the deficit within single digits.

But the Chicago offense heated up in the final stanza, at one point connecting on four straight shots to push the lead to 10, 78-68. Sims and Young again kept the game close, and at one point pulled within seven with 4 minutes to play. But a Gibson jumper and Augustin 3-pointer extended the lead to 12 with just 2 and a half minutes to play.