Playing without Derrick Rose hasn’t held back the Chicago Bulls.
C.J. Watson, starting for the injured MVP, scored 20 points and Joakim Noah added 13 points and 11 rebounds to lead the resilient Bulls to an 89-80 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.
The Bulls overcame an early 14-point deficit without Rose, who missed his third straight game with a strained groin. Rose has missed 13 games this season and the Bulls still have the best record in the NBA at 37-10. They are 9-4 without Rose.
”That was a tough team we just beat so it gives us a lot of confidence, we just need to keep it going. We are playing without our MVP so we just need to keep getting better, keep improving. It was a good bounce back game from yesterday,” Noah said.
The Bulls lost Friday night to Portland after beating the Heat without Rose on Wednesday.
Chicago has not dropped consecutive regular season games since Feb. 5-7, 2011, and back-to-back contests at the United Center since a five-game skid March 1-19, 2010.
”That’s our motto, not to lose two in a row. We’ve been sticking by that and we just need to keep it up,” Watson said.
Jrue Holiday led the 76ers with 30 points. Philadelphia dropped its third straight and has lost seven of nine on the road. Holiday got little help as Andre Iguodala was held to seven points and Elton Brand to seven.
Holiday attempted 27 shots, but he was the only offense the 76ers had going.
”I didn’t even know I took that many shots. I guess it felt like I had to. It was just the fight in me trying to keep us in it,” Holiday said.
Carlos Boozer made a pair of free throws to tie the game then Watson made a 3-pointer to give Chicago its first lead, 52-49, in the third quarter. Omer Asik had a tip-in as time expired at the end of the quarter to increase Chicago’s lead to 64-59.
”One of the things we struggle with is our halfcourt offense. They’re a very, very good defensive team. They got us ground down to a halfcourt game. And then I thought in the second half their size and rebounding became such a factor,” 76ers coach Doug Collins said.
Different players have been picking up the scoring slack with Rose out. On Saturday night, Watson kept the Bulls in the game. Watson just returned to the lineup after missing five games with a sprained left ankle.
”C.J. is a warrior. He is somebody who is still playing injured but we need him to play. For him to come back like that shows the sacrifice he is making for the team,” Noah said.
Kyle Korver made a jumper, and after Asik’s free throw, Korver made a 3 to increase the lead to 71-63. Things started to unravel for the 76ers as Spencer Hawes was called for a technical after an offensive foul and Evan Turner was also called for technical after he argued what he thought should’ve been a goaltending call.
Holiday’s basket got the Bulls to 79-75 with 3:30, but the Bulls answered with a 10-2 run led by Noah, who had eight points in the span.
The Bulls outrebounded the 76ers 53-39.
”It just shows the character of the team. We take losses personal. A lot of people have things to say at the end of the day, we take losing real bad and that shows great character,” Noah said.
The 76ers jumped out to an 11-0 lead. Holiday scored nine of Philadelphia’s first 13 points. The Bulls didn’t score in the first quarter until Boozer hit a jumper with 6:49 left. The Bulls couldn’t convert on its first seven shot attempts. Lou Williams’ layup gave the 76ers a 24-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.
”We’ve played some of our worst games when it’s come easy early,” Brand said.
Ronnie Brewer’s layup as time expired at the end of the second quarter got the Bulls to 44-38. Holiday scored 15 points in the first half for the 76ers. Watson and Gibson led the Bulls with eight apiece.
NOTES: The Bulls wore green uniforms in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. … Andres Nocioni did not make the trip with the 76ers. Nocioni was with the 76ers in last night’s 84-78 loss to Miami, but did not play. According to a 76ers spokesman, Nocioni is still on the active roster, but the team is allowing him to explore other options. ”His official status is that I don’t know if the paperwork is done, but we’ve worked out a deal with him to allow him to either go on with another team maybe, or if not, I talked to him last night, go to Argentina and get ready for the Olympics,” Collins said.