By Richard Kagan
The other day, Niko Mirotic predicted the Chicago Bulls would be 6-0, meaning, the Bulls would defeat the talented 76’ers, for its sixth straight win. That happened as the Bulls and 76’ers were like champion horses nearing the finish line, leaning fast in the final yards.
The Bulls (9-20) emerged with the W because Mirotic and Kris Dunn refused to let the Bulls lose. They made big shot after big shot in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to rally past a gutty effort by Philadelphia who played without breakout star C Joel Embiid. They almost didn’t need him. Ben Simmons played a great game and barely missed a triple-double with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 9 assists. Seven players on Philly scored in double-figures and seven Bulls scored in double figures too. The difference is that Mirotic and Dunn both had 22 points and Justin Holiday scored 20 points in the first half to pace the Bulls.
Neither team could break away until the 76’ers squeezed out a nine-point lead with 4:40 remaining in the fourth quarter. Then Mirotic and Dunn made key shots. With 2:46 left to play, Dunn hit a trey to tie up the game at 107 all. With 2:08 left on the clock, Mirotic made a basket to put Chicago up by two at 109-107. With 1:06 left in the game, Dunn’s jumper gave Chicago a 114-109 lead. Philly kept on coming, mainly on the uncanny shooting of Dario Sacic, who scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half.
It was Mirotic again, who made the big play when he hit a trey to give Chicago a 117-112 lead with just :44 left. The Bulls held on for the win. Sacic hit a three-pointer to close within 2 at 117-115.
The Bulls seem to have a rejuvenated Mirotic who backed up his pre-game prediction with a flourish in the final minutes. He missed 20% of the regular schedule due to facial injuries and a concussion when F Bobby Portis landed a punch to Mirotic’s face. It took weeks until they seemed to have dropped the tension around the incident. Now, both players are fired up and are playing with renewed determination.
Bobby Portis had a double-double with 12 points and ten rebounds. After losing 10 straight, the Bulls have almost miraculously won six games in a row.
And perhaps the key figure of the players moved in the Jimmy Butler trade, Zach LaVine, is slated to return to action in a matter of weeks.