PHILADELPHIA (AP) — With the game down to the final precious possessions, Chicago and Philadelphia each leaned on its best player.
Derrick Rose, the reigning MVP, saw a crack in the defense, went left-to-right with the ball and scored for a four-point lead.
Andre Iguodala shot an air ball and fired one attempt off the backboard.
Make it 31 wins and counting for the Bulls — and another defeat against the elite for the back-to-reality Sixers.
Rose tied a season high with 35 points, Joakim Noah had 11 points and 18 rebounds and Chicago beat Philadelphia 96-91 on Sunday night for their sixth straight win.
Rose dominated the Sixers, scoring 20 points in the second half, and he had a pair of quarter-ending buzzer-beaters that showed why he’s on short list of the NBA’s best players. He was 12 for 23 from the field, including 4 for 7 from 3-point range.
“It was great knowing we didn’t get distracted toward the end,” Rose said. “We knew what we had to do.”
Yeah, like get the ball to Rose. In a battle of division leaders, the Bulls made all the big shots over the final minutes to end a three-game losing streak against the Sixers.
Leading 91-89, the Bulls turned the ball over, but Iguodala tossed up an air ball on a 3-point attempt. The Bulls turned the ball over again, and this time it was Thaddeus Young who missed a jumper for the Sixers. At least his shot hit the rim.
Rose made them pay for the misses, going left hand-to-right for a one-handed shot on the run for a 93-89 lead with 20.2 seconds left.
“I don’t shoot it with my left hand at all. I’m not that good yet,” said Rose, smiling. “I just saw an opening, my floater’s all right, and I just got it up there.”
Iguodala’s tying 3 clanged off the backboard and finished off the Sixers. He was scoreless in the fourth quarter (0 for 4) and finished with 14 points.
“We’ve got to do a better job of helping each other out late in games,” Iguodala said.
Carlos Boozer scored 13 points for the Bulls. Philadelphia’s Elton Brand had 14 points and 13 rebounds for his third straight double-double, Young had 17 points and Jrue Holiday 16.
The Bulls alternated in the fourth between sloppy play and clutch buckets.
Late in the quarter, Rose’s pass went over Noah’s head and was intercepted by Holiday, leading to Young’s dunk that made it 87-85. Noah and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau exchanged words on the bench in a timeout, perhaps over miscommunication on that play. Noah placed his hand on Thibodeau’s shoulder to make a point.
C.J. Watson, playing with a sprained left ankle, made a long jumper on the next play.
Rose took it from there. He had nailed a 22-footer at the halftime buzzer and another long jumper with a hand in his face to end the third that tied it at 64.
The Bulls carried that last-shot momentum into the fourth. Luol Deng hit a pair of 3s early in the quarter and Rose continued to torment the Sixers.
Still, the Sixers kept the Bulls in their sight, and Holiday’s dunk pulled them to 82-78. But the Sixers weren’t smart with the ball and Iguodala’s long 3 hit nothing but air — even as he protested in vain it was tipped.
“It comes down to your primary scorers in every game,” Thibodeau said.
The Bulls are thankful they have Rose.
The Sixers, losing their grip on the Atlantic Division, give the Bulls fits each time they play.
“We know that we have that team’s attention,” Collins said.
Brand had a big block on Noah in the first half, then scooped the loose ball on a bad-pass turnover on Chicago’s next possession. The Sixers led 46-40 at the break and kept rolling in the third. Iguodala slammed home Holiday’s jumper off the front of the rim, and Young made a sweet spin around Taj Gibson that wobbled the forward in the paint for a bucket.
Once Deng, Noah and Richard Hamilton warmed up offensively, the Bulls got going. At one point in the first half, the trio were a combined 2 of 11 for four points. That was long forgotten by the fourth, and when Deng hit consecutive 3s early in the quarter, the Bulls turned the deficit into a 74-66 lead.
“I thought when they punched us, I thought we looked around like, ‘Who’s going to help us?'” Collins said.
They didn’t have an answer.
NOTES: Sixers C Spencer Hawes is close to returning after sitting out almost a month with a strained left Achilles tendon. Hawes could return to the lineup by the middle of the month. … Collins felt the pain when Duke lost to North Carolina on Saturday night. Collins’ son, Chris, is an assistant for the Blue Devils. “Do I feel it? That’s your son sitting over there on the bench getting beat,” he said. “Yeah, I feel it.” … 76ers broadcaster Malik Rose is pulling for the Drexel Dragons to win the Colonial Athletic Association tournament Monday. Rose led the Dragons to the tournament from 1994-96, but the program hasn’t been back. “I think they still have a good chance at getting an at-large,” he said.
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