Ben There, Done That: Ben Gordon Scores 31, Bulls Rout Sixers, 121-94Shhh! Listen closely--do you hear that rumbling in the background? That is the sound of the Chicago Bulls, who have been stampeding through the league since Thanksgiving. On Wednesday night, the Bulls won their sixth straight game, blowing out the listless Philadelphia 76ers, 121-94. Ben Gordon led the Bulls with 31 points in only 33 minutes. Luol Deng had a double double (21 points, 10 rebounds) and shot 9-11 from the field, while Ben Wallace contributed 12 points on 6-8 shooting, eight rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals. The Bulls shot .615 from the field and outrebounded the Sixers 43-29. Allen Iverson scored 25 points for the Sixers with seven assists and seven turnovers but he did not play at all in the fourth quarter because of back spasms. ESPN's Greg Anthony and Tim Legler repeatedly pointed out one of the main differences between the Bulls and the Sixers: the Bulls feature constant player and ball movement, while the Sixers give the ball to Iverson and hope that he can create something positive.
Chicago jumped out to an 18-6 lead by the 6:13 mark of the first quarter--and then things really got bad for the Sixers: Ben Gordon replaced Kirk Hinrich. Gordon scored 17 points in the next 5:33, more than the Sixers managed to put up in the entire first quarter. Chicago led 39-16 at the end of the first period. Anthony mentioned that teams come back from this kind of early deficit in the NBA, but even he didn't sound like he really believed that Philadelphia could make a serious run against Chicago. Iverson had just four points on 1-5 shooting from the field.
Iverson scored seven points in the first three minutes of the second period as the Sixers got within 43-25 but then Chicago began to pull away again. The Sixers made another mini run late in the period to cut the lead to 59-43 but the Bulls led 69-48 at halftime. Iverson shot 4-7 from the field in the second quarter, scoring 16 points and finishing with 20 in the half; he also had six turnovers, two of them on offensive fouls. Gordon had a quiet second quarter, adding just four points to his incredible first quarter total. The Bulls' 69 points are the most that the team has scored in a first half this season.
The third quarter was basically a replay of the second quarter: a token Sixers run, a larger Bulls response and Chicago led 96-70 at the end of the period. Iverson went to the locker room with back spasms prior to the start of the fourth quarter--probably a result of having to carry around so much dead weight this season. Any hope of a Sixers comeback limped to the locker room with him.
The Sixers dropped to 5-12 and have lost five straight games, while the Bulls improved to 9-9. Philadelphia is still in contention in the (sub-) Atlantic Division (just two games out of first place!) but the real story here is that the Bulls are beginning to play like a cohesive unit. Wallace, according to some, is a hindrance on offense, but the Bulls have scored 100-plus points in eight straight games and their 121 on Wednesday is a season-high. His defense and rebounding fuel the team's fastbreak and against the Sixers he even showed the ability to score on drives and jump hooks; obviously, Wallace shooting 6-8 from the field will not happen on a nightly basis, but the Bulls have plenty of offensive weapons. What they needed was someone to provide a defensive/rebounding presence in the paint and Wallace has been doing just that in recent games.
posted by David Friedman @ 12:56 AM