The fans gave Derrick Rose a standing ovation before the game. There wasn’t much for them to cheer about in the end.
Jrue Holiday scored 26 points, Lou Williams added 20 and the Philadelphia 76ers beat Chicago 109-92 on Tuesday night to even their first-round series in the Bulls’ first game since Rose’s season-ending knee injury.
The superstar point guard received a standing ovation and waved to the crowd as he limped onto the court to present the game ball, then watched from a suite as the 76ers simply blitzed the Bulls in the third quarter.
They outscored Chicago 36-14 in the period, turning an eight-point deficit into an 83-69 lead, and pulled even with the league’s top-seeded team.
Game 3 is Friday in Philadelphia.
”This game we caught fire and it was pretty hard to put it out,” Holiday said.
All the Bulls could do was shake their heads and vow to do better.
”Disappointed,” Chicago’s Joakim Noah said. ”Disappointing effort overall. We didn’t play well defensively. We didn’t play well offensively.”
Holiday was 11 of 15 from the field, and the Sixers shot 59 percent overall. Williams came up big, going 8 of 13 after hitting just 1-of-6 shots in the opener, and Chicago product Evan Turner chipped in with 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Noah led the Bulls with 21 points and eight rebounds. John Lucas III scored 15 points, but Carlos Boozer scored just nine and Luol Deng finished with eight. More alarming, the Bulls simply couldn’t stop the Sixers, particularly in the third quarter.
Turner scored 11 points in the period, and Philadelphia wiped out a 55-47 deficit.
”That third quarter we played tonight was as good a quarter as I ever seen our team play as long as I’ve been with them,” Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said. ”We were active.”
For the Bulls, that was about as bad as it gets.
They were unable to make any stops, and they couldn’t find a rhythm on offense, either.
”We kind of let our offense affect our defense,” Richard Hamilton said.
The Sixers were leading 68-61 midway through the quarter after a 12-0 run that Elton Brand started with a foul-line jumper. Then, after a basket by C.J. Watson, Andre Iguodala threw down a thunderous one-handed dunk over Deng for a three-point play that drew plenty of oohs, aahs and groans from a crowd that felt this one slipping away.
Things didn’t get much better for Chicago after that.
The 76ers continued to pour it on, with Iguodala delivering another vicious dunk late in the quarter and then hitting Williams with an alley-oop pass that made it 83-69 heading into the fourth.
”For the first time in a long time our defense dictated our offense,” Iguodala said. ”We rebounded the ball. Evan and myself pushed it out on the break and we finished pretty well. It started with that in the third quarter.”
It added up to a rough night for the Bulls, who were in a familiar spot with Rose sidelined again — this time after tearing the ACL in his left knee late in Game 1.
He missed 27 games during the regular season because of a variety of ailments, and the Bulls did just fine, going 18-9. Throw in injuries to Hamilton and Deng, and they were able to go with their projected starting five just 15 times, yet they still captured homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs for the second straight season.
That’s why they insist they can still make a run, even with Rose out. They won without him before. They insist their championship hopes didn’t die when he went down.
”It’s different (without Rose),” Noah said. ”There’s no excuses, though. We know we can play better. It’s disappointing, but you know what? We live to fight another day. There’s a lot of basketball to play.”
Notes: The Sixers shuffled their lineup from Game 1, with Turner starting for Jodie Meeks and C Spencer Hawes for Lavoy Allen. … Scottie Pippen says the Bulls still are the team to beat even without Rose. In an open letter to the team posted Tuesday on the Bulls’ website, Pippen wrote, ”You’re still the best team in the NBA until an opponent proves otherwise.” The Hall of Famer also compared the loss of Rose to Michael Jordan’s first retirement and pointed out the 1993-94 team won 55 games. Pippen said the Bulls ”believed in ourselves” and never ”felt sorry for ourselves.” … Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau finished second in the Coach of the Year voting to San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich after winning the award last season.