Fun to watch, tough to beat. The 76ers have stamped themselves as a rising threat in the East.
Andre Iguodala helped the Philadelphia 76ers take down one of the NBA’s top teams, scoring 19 points and grabbing nine rebounds in a 98-82 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.
Iguodala outplayed Derrick Rose and stuffed a month’s worth of dazzling highlight video plays into one game. His one-handed dunks, around-the-back passes, and big 3s helped the Sixers lead the Eastern Conference-leading Bulls by 20 at the end of the third quarter.
In front of 18,325 fans, the Sixers confidence is skyrocketing along with the crowds at the Wells Fargo Center.
Thaddeus Young scored 19 points, Lavoy Allen had 15 and Lou Williams 14, all off the bench for the Sixers.
The Sixers (16-6) had used a soft schedule to race to their best start in nearly a decade. No padding their record this week. They beat Orlando on Monday, tamed the Bulls, and go for the home-week sweep against Miami on Friday.
The Sixers won their fourth straight game and improved to 12-2 at home. The Sixers didn’t win their 16th game last season until Game 39.
”They’re a very good team,” said an impressed Rose.
Wins against Orlando and Chicago should silence critics around the league who said the Sixers thrived because of an early schedule packed with lightweights from both conferences.
”`Who’ve you beat?’ I heard that. `Inferior teams,’ I heard that,” coach Doug Collins said.
Nearly 20,000 fans going wild after a win over the best in the East? He heard that, too.
Iguodala is leading the way.
Long a scapegoat for being an $80 million player on a mediocre team, Iguodala walked off the court during a substitution late in the third quarter to a standing ovation.
”When we needed him, he really made that huge spurt,” Collins said.
Iguodala scored nine points in the third – when the Sixers held the Bulls to 11 total in the quarter. Rose went 1 for 5 from the floor and the Bulls missed 13 of 16 shots in the quarter.
At times, Iguodala played like he was in a pickup game, dunking with style in front of a raucous crowd. His wowed the crowd on a fastbreak when he took the ball behind his back, then tossed a scoop pass to Jrue Holiday in stride for a jumper and a 58-46 lead. Holiday scored 17.
Iguodala even got a rise out of the crowd on a normal play. He grabbed a defensive rebound just below Chicago’s free throw line, casually dribbled to the 3-point line, stopped and swished the shot, stunning the Bulls.
Late in the third, Williams and Allen hit consecutive jumpers, and Holiday finished with a 3 to lift the Sixers to a stunning 75-55 lead.
Collins scolded the team after beating the Magic for letting a big lead turn into a soft finish. The Bulls pulled within 12, but Young put a halt to any late spurt with two straight buckets and the lead was pushed back to 15.
”I don’t think we’ve gotten the respect yet from the outside,” Iguodala said. ”We’re starting to get there.”
C.J. Watson scored 20 points and Rose had 18 for the Bulls. Chicago’s 17 turnovers were turned into 29 points for the Sixers.
The Bulls matched their worst loss of the season.
”They’re right there with everyone else,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ”Very impressive.”
Yes, the Bulls played without Richard Hamilton (right thigh) and Luol Deng (left wrist). But the Sixers came ready to topple the Bulls and caught them off guard early with their frantic defense.
Iguodala blocked a driving Rose, Evan Turner snagged the loose ball and fed to Iguodala on the other end for the bucket. Turner stripped Kyle Korver and that led to an Allen jumper for a 23-19 lead.
Even Collins came extra juiced for the first truly big game of the season for the Sixers. Collins was irate when Iguodala was whistled for a charge and drew a fast technical.
Unlike some technicals that can fire up the other team, the Bulls failed to pull ahead the rest of the half.
Young, one of the top reserves in the NBA, had plenty to do with that. He was in perfect position near the basket to grab a wildly off Iguodala airball, spin around Noah and score. He fell on his rear on a jumper the next time down, then took a perfect pass from Iguodala to finish a fastbreak dunk for a 47-40 lead.
Young scored 11 points in the half and led the Sixers to a 49-44 lead at the break.
Up ahead, LeBron James and the Heat.
”It would be nice if we could somehow finish off the week,” Collins said. ”I’ve never been more proud of our guys.”
Notes: Thibodeau was named Eastern Conference coach of the month. … This was the first of three games between the two teams. … The Sixers outrebounded the Bulls 43-37 and are 10-1 when outrebounding the opposition.