CHICAGO It was a meeting between two teams that both lost on Friday night the Bulls to the Trailblazers on their home floor and the Sixers on their home floor to the Miami Heat.
It was also a meeting between the top two defensive teams, in terms of fewest points allowed on average, the Sixers are first and the Bulls are second.
The Bulls took their first lead of the game at the 5:31 mark of the third quarter on a C.J. Watson jumper his fourth made field goal, his third from long range. The lead changed a couple times before Chicago took over and won 89-80.
The Sixers have lost three straight and are 25-20, while Chicago improved to 37-10.
The Sixers won the battle in the paint by 18 points. They were plus-6 in points off turnovers and plus-14 on the fast break.
But the Sixers Achilles heels remain the foul line and rebounding. Chicago shot 16 more free throws, which led to 10 more points at the line and they out-rebounded the Sixers, 53-39.
The Bulls were playing their third straight game without star point guard Derrick Rose, while the Sixers welcomed back their starting center Spencer Hawes who did not play on Friday because he cannot play on consecutive days with his healing Achilles injury.
After holding the Bulls to 27-percent shooting in the first quarter, the Sixers defense allowed Chicago to shoot 60 percent in the second.
It did take the Bulls 6:49 to put their first points on the board. Carlos Boozer made a 15-foot jumper from the corner of the foul line to end an 11-0 run by the Sixers.
At the end of the second quarter, Ronnie Brewer made a running layup as time expired to pull the Bulls within six at intermission.
At the end of the third quarter, Omer Asik tipped in a missed shot with 0.1 seconds on the clock to give the Bulls a 64-59 lead.
Follow the leaders
One day after shooting 3 for 16 from the floor and not playing at all in the fourth quarter against Miami, Jrue Holiday made 4 of 6 shots in an eight-minute first quarter run to lead his team with nine points after one.
He finished 13 for 27 for a career-high 30 points.
Holiday has had an interesting last five games from a shooting stand point. He was 7 for 11 against Utah. He was 2 for 14 vs. the Knicks. He shot 7 for 8 in Indiana on Wednesday, followed by Fridays 3-for-16 showing against the Heat.
Starting in place of Rose, Watson led the Bulls with 20 points, including four three-pointers. He was one of five Bulls in double figures.
Joahkim Noah was their leading rebounder with 11. He also scored 11 points.
Friday night the Sixers got steamrolled by Miami in the blink of an eye from the opening tip. They talked afterwards about needing push first more often, which is what they did Saturday night.
The Bulls missed their first seven shots, made their next five and then closed out the first quarter missing six straight field-goal attempts. The Sixers led 24-11, with 11 of their points coming off eight Chicago turnovers. Because of those forced turnovers, the Sixers were also able to out score Chicago, 12-0, on the fast break.
Unfortunately, that great start was negated by how the Sixers started the second half. They shot just 6 for 19 in the third quarter and committed four turnovers turning a six-point lead into a five-point deficit.
Take a bow
On his 31st birthday, former Sixer Kyle Korver hit two critical jumpers at the start of the fourth quarter, which stretched the Bulls lead to eight, ignited the crowd and frustrated his former team.
The Sixers play every other day this week, beginning Monday in Charlotte. They have beaten Charlotte twice this season. The first meeting was in Philadelphia and the Sixers beat an injury-plagued and young Bobcats team by 17 points. The game against Charlotte on Feb. 13 was more competitive and the Sixers won 98-89.
Lou Williams was the leading scorer for the Sixers in both games, totaling 40 points. Meanwhile, Bobcats starting point guard D.J. Augustin missed a stretch of 11 games, which included the two Sixers games but he is back, having played the last 15. Gerald Henderson and Corey Maggette, both of whom battled injuries are also back in Charlottes starting lineup.E-mail Dei Lynam at firstname.lastname@example.org