PHILADELPHIA – Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan paid tribute to his team’s defence on Monday, as DeMar DeRozan’s 25 points helped snap Philadelphia’s eight-game winning streak with a 109-105 National Basketball Association (NBA) victory in double overtime.
The red-hot Sixers had been looking to clinch their play-off ticket in front of an expectant home crowd at the Wells Fargo Centre.
But, despite a 37-point performance from Joel Embiid – the Most Valuable Player front-runner’s 10th straight 30-point game – Philadelphia were left waiting to reach the post-season after a gritty road win by Chicago.
“Our defence kinda kept us in and the game went back and forth... we respond, they respond,” said Donovan.
“I think that was the key in the game, just having bodies in those spots where we could get our hands on some balls and generate some turnovers, and disrupting their flow.”
The Sixers’ 105 points was their lowest in 11 games. The last time they had fewer was when they lost 101-99 to the Miami Heat on Feb 27.
“We couldn’t get anything going offensively really the whole game,” Embiid admitted.
“Tonight could’ve been better, but we move on and learn from it.”
The centre missed a tip-in after Tyrese Maxey’s attempted three-pointer at the end of regulation which would have snatched victory for the Sixers.
Embiid made amends by putting Philadelphia 99-97 ahead in the final minute of the first period of overtime, but DeRozan levelled with a driving layup.
The Chicago star then missed an attempted three-pointer with less than two seconds left, to take the game to a second overtime.
The Sixers looked to have taken a grip on the contest after opening up a 105-101 lead in the second overtime.
But, with Embiid absent after fouling out, the Bulls reeled off eight unanswered points to close out the win.
It was the first time in 12 meetings against Chicago that Embiid has finished on the losing side.
DeRozan admitted that he was aware of that statistic before the game.
“I knew that,” he said. “Not saying that was part of the motivation.
“We’ve got a bigger goal than just trying to beat him. I’m glad we got the win.”
Chicago improved to 34-37 and remain in 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings.
They are in line for a place in the play-in tournament for teams ranked from seventh to 10th, which determine the last two spots in the eight-team conference play-offs.
Philadelphia, third in the East with a 48-23 record, remain one win away from formally clinching their play-off spot.
In other games, Julius Randle erupted for 57 points in a scintillating performance. But it was not enough to stop the New York Knicks falling 140-134 at home to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Randle’s masterpiece included eight three-pointers from 19-of-29 shooting, while Jalen Brunson added 23 points. Three other Knicks players finished in double figures.
However, Minnesota’s balanced offence was enough to give the Wolves victory, with Taurean Prince leading the visitors’ scoring with 35 points.
All of Minnesota’s starters posted double-digit points totals, while Naz Reid (12) and Jaylen Nowell (14) combined for 26 off the bench.
In Houston, Golden State finally snapped their miserable losing streak on the road with a 121-108 win over the Rockets.
The NBA champions (37-36) had gone into the game after 11 straight defeats away from home – their last win was on Jan 30 at Oklahoma City – but ended that sequence against a Rockets team who have just 18 wins this season.
Stephen Curry (30) and Klay Thompson (29) combined for 59 points, including 10 three-pointers. Yet the Warriors still made hard work of the win, coughing up 20 turnovers, 14 of them in the first half.
“We were not focused, but second half we did a better job of taking care of the ball,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
“I don’t remember the last road game we won. It’s been a while. We needed it obviously.” AFP