Bulls' defense comes unglued in Game 2 blowout

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Bulls' defense comes unglued in Game 2 blowout

Coming off a Game 1 win in which they mostly dominated the action, then watched superstar Derrick Rose suffer a devastating, season-ending torn left ACL injury, the Bulls vowed to play with the same ferocity they did when Rose was absent for approximately half of the regular season. During that time, they achieved the leagues best record for the second consecutive season.

Well, the plan worked for a half Tuesday night, before the Bulls succumbed to a barrage from the 76ers, falling 109-92 in Game 2 of the first-round series, which is now tied at one game apiece.

Despite Roses injury, the home team and its supporters had ample reason to be in high spirits, as the reigning league MVP surprised fans by presenting the game ball to the referees at the outset of the contest before watching his teammates from a luxury suite in the arena. Without the All-Star point guard, the Bulls exemplified balance in the opening period, as all five starters got on the board.

Former All-Stars Carlos Boozer and Rip Hamilton were especially active in the early goingthe latter dished out four assists, perhaps compensating for the absence of Roses playmaking abilitywhile Joakim Noah (21 points, eight rebounds, five assists) brought his typical energy, All-Star Luol Deng displayed his versatility and fill-in starter C.J. Watson ran the team well.

Meanwhile former Bull Elton Brand, less-than-beloved Chicago native Evan Turner (19 points, seven rebounds, six assists), point guard Jrue Holiday (26 points, six assists, 11-for-14 shooting, 3-for-3 from three-point range) and rookie reserve Lavoy Allen (11 points, nine rebounds) were each effective for the visitors, but the Bulls held a 28-25 edge after a quarter of play.

Philadelphia proved that while Roses injury was the story in Chicago, they were more concerned with evening the series and stealing home-court advantage, as Holiday continued to do damage with his penetration and finishing ability, not to mention the Sixers as a whole getting out in transition. At the same time, the Bulls suffered through one of their periodic scoring droughts and appeared generally listless.

To cure their woes, Noah was inserted into the contest and immediately made an impact, particularly on the offensive end, where he was effective off the dribbleincluding making Sixers reserve forward Thaddeus Young look silly with a dynamic in-and-out moveand knocking down his unorthodox Tornado jumper, complete with his trademark finger funs celebration.

But the star of the quarter was fan favorite John Lucas III (15 points, four assists), who notched 11 points and three assists, finally getting the partisan audience to respond in a manner worthy of the contests magnitude and helping the Bulls take a 55-47 lead into the intermission.

After the break, Philadelphia stormed back behind Holiday, whose torrid outside shooting and dynamic finishing gave the Bulls fits. With Turner, his backcourt mateSixers head coach Doug Collins inserted the West Side product and center Spencer Hawes into the starting lineup for Game 2, giving the visitors more sizeshowcasing his all-around skills and Brand popping out for mid-range jumpers, the Sixers went on a 17-6 run to start the third quarter to seize the lead.

While Watson bounced back from a previously dreadful period to help stem the tide for the time being, it didnt last long, as Philadelphia got out in transitionAll-Star swingman Andre Iguodalas monster dunk, plus the foul, hushed the crowdand Turner found his rhythm. With the games momentum dramatically shifting, aided by multiple dunks in both transition and even against the Bulls set defense, the Sixers lead ballooned, putting the hosts in a 83-69 hole entering the final stanza.

Philadelphia continued to pour it on at the outset of the fourth quarter, dominating the Bulls vaunted defense in the paint and scoring on the break, as the likes of reserves Young, Allen and Lou Williams (20 points, six assists)the Sixth Man of the Year candidate and his teams leading scorer during the regular season found his offensive game and torched the Bulls in a variety of ways, from alley-oops and transition layups to contested pull-up jumpers and tough finisheswere all major factors.

As the game shockingly headed toward blowout status, the United Center crowd voiced its displeasure with the home team and a portion began to exit midway through the period with the Bulls deficit hovering around 20 points.

The energy that marked the Bulls regular season without Rose in the lineup simply wasnt therethat held true for the fans, tooand there would be no miraculous comeback, as the Sixers just isolated their preferred matchups and successfully attacked one-on-one off the dribble.

Now, after giving up home-court advantage in the series, the Bulls must look in the mirror and determine how much fortitude they have after taking a beating, then go on the road and win in a hostile environment.

Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Milwaukee Bucks today on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 2 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Can the Bulls get one on the Bucks? The Bulls are 0-3 against the Bucks so far this season and it hasn't been pretty. The Bucks have won the previous three meetings all by double digits and by an average of 19 points. The youth and athleticism of the Bucks has been a tough matchup for the Bulls so far.

2. Containing Giannis. There may be no stopping Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Bulls can at least try to contain him. Antetokounmpo is averaging 23 points and nearly nine rebounds per game. In three games against the Bulls this year he has averaged 29 points, 10 rebounds and 7.3 assists per contest. If the Bulls are to stay in the game, they will need to keep him to numbers lower than that.

3. Playoff implications. The Bulls playoff hopes are still alive with nine games remaining, but things are looking a bit bleak. The Bulls are a game and a half out of the eighth playoff spot, but only 3.5 games behind two teams tied for the No. 5 seed, the Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks. The Bucks have won three in a row to improve their position.

4. Mirotic on a roll. Streaky play is nothing new to Nikola Mirotic, but he's on a good run currently. After scoring a season-high 28 points on Wednesday against the Pistons, Mirotic followed that up with 15 points against the 76ers. Since missing three straight games earlier this month, Mirotic has scored in double figures in five of the last seven games and is averaging 15.6 points during that stretch.

5. Beginning of a tough stretch. The Bulls' playoff hopes could be made or broken in the next three games. After taking on the Bucks, which occupy a playoff spot, the Bulls host two more Eastern Conference playoff teams in Cleveland and Atlanta. The Bulls need to string some wins together and this is not an easy stretch to do so against.

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Former Bulls center Joakim Noah suspended 20 games for violating NBA's anti-drug policy

Former Bulls center Joakim Noah suspended 20 games for violating NBA's anti-drug policy

The NBA announced Saturday that it has suspended former Bulls and current Knicks center Joakim Noah for 20 games without pay for violating the league's anti-drug policy.

He tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement called selective androgen receptor modulator LGD-4033, which is prohibited under the current collective bargaining agreement but would not have been under the new CBA starting next year, according to ESPN's Marc Spears.

It was announced in February that Noah would miss the remainder of the season with a left knee injury. His suspension will carry over into the 2017-18 campaign with only 10 games left this year.

Noah averaged 5.0 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game in 46 games in his first of a four-year, $72 million contract with the Knicks.