Bulls 93, 76ers 88
Richard Hamilton wasn't sure he was healthy enough to return to the game.
It didn't matter, he was going back on the floor for the Chicago Bulls.
Hamilton left the game in the third quarter with a left ankle injury, then returned to hit three of four free throws in the final 20 seconds to clinch a 93-88 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.
Luol Deng scored a game-high 25 points. He also had a season-high seven assists and has led the team in scoring in consecutive games. He scored 22 in a 101-78 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
Hamilton finished with 15 points for the Bulls, who played the 76ers for the first time since last season's first-round playoff series.
Hamilton went down with a little more than three minutes left in the third quarter after elevating off the ground while on offense. Kirk Hinrich and Deng helped him as he limped off the floor.
''As soon as I came up off my feet, I felt something on the bottom of my foot,'' Hamilton said.
''I felt something pop.''
Hamilton did not receive X-rays, but said he is scheduled for an MRI on Sunday.
''When Rip (Hamilton) came back, (team trainer) Fred Tedeschi said we could use him if needed,'' coach Tom Thibodeau said. ''We needed him ... we wanted him out there for the free throw situation.''
Pending the MRI, the decision worked out well for Thibodeau and the Bulls.
After missing the second of his first pair of free throws, Hamilton was fouled after grabbing the loose ball batted away by Joakim Noah and made his next two.
''I should have had Thad (Young) and Evan (Turner) pinching on Noah and Evan got caught over there on him, so that was my mistake,'' 76ers coach Doug Collins said.
Chicago (8-7) outrebounded Philadelphia 50-37, including 13 rebounds for Noah and 12 for Carlos Boozer.
Noah had 12 points and seven assists and Boozer had 12 points, giving him double-doubles in six of his past eight games.
''There were a lot of loose balls, 50-50 balls that we should have got,'' Holiday said. ''I think there were lots of plays on defense we missed at critical times. It kind of comes down to the details.''
Philadelphia, which had won three straight and seven of nine overall, failed to reach 100 points for just the second time in six games. The Sixers have won three in a row three times this season, but have not been able to win a fourth.
Philadelphia (10-7) shot just 27.3 percent from long range and 43.8 percent from the field overall. Chicago moved to 6-0 when holding teams to fewer than 90 points.
''The thing for us is to concentrate on improvement,'' Thibodeau said. ''We are moving in the right direction. We are still not a 48-minute team. There were stretches where we played well defensively, we have to do it consistently throughout the game.''
The Bulls downplayed talk of the rematch from last season's early playoff exit throughout the week. But the memory clearly lingered with fans, who showered the Sixers with boos during introductions.
The Bulls lost reigning MVP Derrick Rose to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the final 90 seconds of a Game 1 win over the 76ers. Chicago exited the first round in six games, just the fifth time in NBA history a No. 8 seed knocked off the No. 1 seed. Rose had surgery to repair his left knee in May and has been rehabbing since.
Philadelphia jumped out to an early 13-6 lead before the Bulls found a rhythm on offense.
Deng assisted Noah on a big first-quarter dunk to bring Chicago within two points, then was on the receiving end two possessions later with a dunk to tie it at 17.
Deng scored Chicago's final seven points of the first quarter to contribute to a 21-6 Bulls run.
Philadelphia regained the lead with a minute left in the second half on Evan Turner's fading leaner in the lane. Following another dunk by Noah, Holiday hit one of two free throws with 1.3 seconds left to send it to halftime tied at 41.
Notes: 76ers guard Nick Young (left great toe hyperextension) was inactive. ... Turner reached double digits in scoring for a ninth straight game, extending his career high.