By Sam Bush
The young Sixers received a lesson last night from the NBA establishment on how to close out a game.
The 76ers led by as many as 24 in the opening half, shooting 54.5 percent from the field while taking a 62-46 lead into the break, but Jimmy Butler (above) scored a career-high 53 points and E’Twaun Moore had seven of his 14 in overtime to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 115-111 victory over Philly at the Wells.
”I was just shooting the ball,” Butler said. ”I just kept being aggressive, taking the shots the defense was giving me.”
Butler also had 10 rebounds and six assists while making 15 of 30 field goals and 21 of 25 free throws to help the Bulls snap a three-game losing streak. He became the first Chicago player to score 50 points since Jamal Crawford in 2004.
”That’s as good of a performance as I’ve seen,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. ”The guys hopped on his shoulders and he carried us home. Play after play, it was an unbelievable performance.”
Robert Covington scored 25 points and Ish Smith had 24 for the 76ers, who fell to 4-37.
But the Sixers didn’t go down easily in this one.
Nerlens Noel’s follow put the Sixers in front 108-104 just more than a minute into overtime. Moore followed with a 3-pointer, a drive and then a 15-footer for a 7-0 run that put Chicago up 111-108 with 2:35 remaining.
Butler’s layup made it 113-108 before Smith’s 3-pointer cut the lead to 113-111 with 1:05 remaining.
Smith had a chance to tie it but his layup with 25.9 seconds left rimmed out, and Doug McDermott clinched the victory with a pair of free throws with 10.4 seconds to play.
”E’Twaun making big baskets late, that guy gets a lot of the credit for this win,” Butler said.
Chicago was without star guard Derrick Rose (knee) and starting center Pau Gasol (rest). Joakim Noah, making just his second start of the season, had six points, 16 rebounds and eight assists in Gasol’s place.
And, of course, the Bulls had Butler.
”I got some help from my teammates. Keep giving me the ball, telling me to score, be aggressive, just supporting me on defense,” he said. ”This is a team win.”
The Bulls outrebounded the 76ers 53-34.
Philly scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter, capped by one of Covington’s four fourth-quarter 3s, to take an 87-77 lead. But the Bulls, behind Butler’s array of offensive skills, whittled away at the lead. He finally put Chicago ahead on a layup with 2:24 left in the fourth that made it 98-97.
After Smith’s jumper put the Sixers back in front on the ensuing possession, Butler converted a three-point play after draining a 15-footer to eclipse 50 points.
Smith then tied it at 101 on a drive before Moore’s 3-pointer from the left wing put the Bulls ahead 104-101 with 1:17 left in regulation. Smith responded with a 3 of his own with 17.6 seconds left to tie it at 104.
The Bulls had a chance to win in regulation, but Butler lost control of the ball before attempting a shot.
”Turnovers, hanging heads, no urgency at all on the defensive end,” Hoiberg said. ”It couldn’t have been a worse start for us.”
Butler said the Chicago coach lit into the Bulls at halftime.
”He was fired up,” Butler said. ”I like it, though. He let us know, this is not how we’re going to play.
”We came out lazy, weren’t guarding, turned the ball over, but we picked it up in the second half,” he added.