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Slow starts the problem again against the Philadelphia 76ers

The Chicago Bulls fell to the Philadelphia 76ers 114-109 on Saturday despite coming back from a 19-point deficit.

The Bulls dropped to 3-4 after losing both games of the back-to-back.

Here are six takeaways from Saturday’s loss.

Losing to the 76ers was more of the same as the Bulls trailed 37-22 after one quarter.

There has been a consistent pattern this season of the Bulls digging themselves into a hole in the first quarter and then spending the rest of the game trying to climb out. The Bulls are 29th in the league in first quarter defensive rating, allowing opponents to shoot 57.1% in the first quarter of their first seven games. They beat only two opponents in the first quarter.

While the Bulls have been able to mount massive comebacks this season, back-to-back losses Friday to the San Antonio Spurs and Saturday to the 76ers showed just how big of an early deficit will be unacceptable as the team moves deeper into the season.

“I can’t sit there and say it’s one player — it’s that group,” coach Billy Donovan said. “This is a group of five players. It’s probably something we have to look at and evaluate.”

The 76ers star center is 12-0 against the Bulls since entering the NBA in 2014. He scored 25 points Saturday after managing the workload in Friday’s win against the Toronto Raptors as he returns from a knee injury.

Smaller Bulls often struggle to defend dominant centers like Embiid because of his size and ability to score from anywhere on the floor. Nikola Vucevic spent more time guarding Embiid without Andre Drummond (left shoulder strain), whose absence left the Bulls short in the paint.

Embiid went completely unguarded in the game-winning 3-pointer without touching his face, extending his eight-year hitting streak against the Bulls.

Vucevic responded after a shaky night in San Antonio to lead the Bulls with 23 points and 19 rebounds. He went 5-for-7 from three-point range, making four of his 3-pointers in a scorching third quarter.

After Vucevic struggled to shake off a bad game during the series’ first full season in Chicago, Vucevic’s ability to bounce back quickly against the Spurs was a promising sign for the Bulls, even in a loss.

Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) drives against 76ers guard De'Anthony Melton (8) during the second half Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at the United Center.

LaVine missed a layup to give the Bulls a 109-109 lead with 1:41 on the clock. He pulled up for a 20-footer, missing a wide-open Vucevic behind the three-point line.

LaVine said after the game that he wished he had passed the ball to his teammate for a potential touchdown.

“After I looked, I had to throw him to the Eye. It was wide open,” Lavin said. “It was a bad read on my part. It’s a learning process that we’re in this situation.”

The 76ers became the last team to beat the Bulls from 3-point range, going 14-for-29. The Bulls rank second in the league in 3-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot 42.6% and make 14.4 3-pointers. points per game.

Chicago Tribune Sports

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Although the Bulls have only played seven games into the season, Donovan said the sample size isn’t too small to identify it as an obvious weakness. The problem is exacerbated in the first quarter, when the Bulls allow teams to make most of their 3-pointers.

“We have to start the game better,” Donovan said. “There are times when you’re in help, you’re in the rotation and you’re trying to protect the paint, but we have to have better awareness and recognition.

“One area that we can really clean up is in transition, because that’s where we’re very, very poor right now.”


Dosunmu (chest bruise) and Drummond are out Saturday after suffering injuries Friday in San Antonio.

Dasunma was quickly taken off the concussion report Friday after a hit to the head, but was sidelined Saturday with neck and upper back stiffness. Drummond similarly returned to Friday’s loss after falling to the ground on his left shoulder, but was unable to play Saturday.

Neither injury is expected to result in significant missed time, but both absences reflect the importance of the players. The Bulls haven’t had the edge of Drummond, who has accounted for nearly a quarter of their rebounds this season. And Dosunmu’s absence forced Alex Caruso into the starting lineup, disrupting rotations and weakening the second unit.

The availability of Dasunmu and Drummond for Tuesday’s game in Brooklyn has yet to be determined.


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