One night after losing in uninspiring fashion in the nation’s capital, the Bulls put together one of their most complete games of the season in a 103-78 blowout win over the Sixers on Saturday night at the United Center.
Joakim Noah had a monster performance with 21 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks, Carlos Boozer also double-doubled with 15 points and 13 rebounds and D.J. Augustin was efficient off the bench, tallying 19 points and eight assists in the win.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau stressed during pregame the importance of improved defense, but at the outset it was Bulls’ offense that struggled. They missed their first six shots of the contest before a Boozer 17-footer bounced in. The Bulls took their first lead on a Jimmy Butler (10 points, four rebounds, four assists) transition layup, and Boozer drained another jumper to extend the lead to 12-9. Gibson joined the fun with a pair of nifty up-and-under moves, the second of which gave the Bulls a 22-17 lead.
Chicago-area native Evan Turner (seven points, three rebounds, three assists) paced Philadelphia with seven points in the quarter, though he didn't score the rest of the night. The Sixers shot just 41 percent and committed seven turnovers against a stingy Bulls defense. Late in the first quarter Boozer was called for technical foul after tossing the ball back to an official following a made Butler layup. Boozer had driven to the basket, and no foul was called. Turner missed the technical free throw, and the Bulls closed the quarter on a 6-2 run to lead 24-19 after one.
That Bulls offense continued their impressive play in the second quarter, this time with the bench coming up big. A pair of Noah baskets with a Tony Snell (13 points, three 3-pointers) 3-pointer sandwiched in between sparked a 10-2 run that pushed the Bulls’ lead to 14 at 43-29. Noah, who had a quiet first quarter, scored eight points in the stanza, capped off by a transition dunk off a feed from Augustin.
Augustin had seven of the Bulls’ 10 assists in the quarter and added nine points in the period. The defense was just as good as the Bulls put together one of their most complete halves of the season. Philadelphia shot just 31 percent and committed 11 turnovers, giving the Bulls a 51-31 lead at intermission.
Philadelphia tried to inch its way back in the third quarter behind shooting from rookie Michael Carter-Williams (10 points, five rebounds, five assists) and Spencer Hawes (nine points, six rebounds, two blocks), but Noah scored seven straight points and fed Butler on a beautiful outlet pass for a dunk as part of a 15-2 run that blew the game wide open midway through the quarter. The Bulls shot better than 47 percent out of halftime and made eight of nine free throws in the third, pushing the lead to 78-51 by the end of the quarter.
Both teams played their starters more than halfway into the fourth quarter. Snell and Augustin knocked down 3-pointers to maintain the wide margin, while Noah continued his energetic play late into the period. With a little more than four minutes remaining Noah and Gibson headed to the bench to a chorus of cheers.