By Jack Ryan
With only 10 players available, Dario Saric scored a career-high 32 points to lead the Sixers to a 117-107 win over the Chicago Bulls, who are fighting for their playoff lives.
Saric added 10 rebounds but deflected praise to rookie teammate Shawn Long, who had 18 points in his ninth career game.
“The main reason is because of Shawn Long,” Saric said. “He came off the bench, he brought the same kind of energy. Usually, he gets four or five fouls, but he was smart.”
With Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jahlil Okafor sidelined, veteran point guard Sergio Rodriguez led the 76ers to a 35-18 advantage in the second quarter. Coach Brett Brown kept Rodriguez in the whole quarter and the Spaniard scored nine points and had six assists.
“You guys should speak and write great things about what he did in the first half,” Brown said. “I kept Sergio going because he was playing so well.”
Philly, which pushed its record to 27-45 a year after it had won only 10 games, turned a 59-46 halftime lead into a 20-point advantage early in the third quarter.
The lead reached 81-55 on T.J. McConnell’s jumper midway through the third as Bulls fans at the United Center grew restless, booing coach Fred Hoiberg and the team.
“For us to come out and play with that type of effort at this time of year is maddening,” Hoiberg said. “We finally showed some fight in the last quarter, but it was way too late.”
The Bulls had the lead cut to 102-92 midway through the fourth quarter, but Denzel Valentine missed an open 3-pointer. Saric then knocked down a contested 3-pointer off Valentine’s miss to quiet the crowd with 5:55 to play.
“That was the back-breaker,” Brown said of Saric, who scored 13 points in the fourth. “In that fourth period, he sort of willed his way to the basket and found multiple ways to score in big times when the game really felt in the balance.”
The Bulls remained even with Detroit for ninth place in the Eastern Conference. The Pistons were blown out by one of the East’s worst teams, 115-87 in Orlando. The Bulls and Magic are each 1 1/2 games behind Miami, which is eighth.
Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with 36 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.
“We do enough talking around here. I think everybody knows where we stand right now: on the outside looking in,” Butler said. “Everybody knows where we want to be. Ain’t too much to say.”
Rodriguez had 12 points and seven assists for the 76ers, and Gerald Henderson added 14 points.