CHICAGO – Nikola Mirotic pounded his chest in celebration after a big play in the fourth quarter. Kris Dunn wagged his finger from side to side after one last stop closed it out.
The Bulls are having fun again and – surprise, surprise – winning, too.
Mirotic and Dunn each scored 22 points, and the Bulls topped the Philadelphia 76ers, 117-115, on Monday night for their sixth consecutive victory.
“These guys have made leaps and bounds from where we were as far as making plays down the stretch and going out and playing with confidence when it matters most,” coach Fred Hoiberg said.
Mirotic and Dunn each hit huge shots as the Bulls rallied past Philadelphia with a big finish in the fourth quarter. Mirotic also grabbed 13 rebounds, helping the Bulls remain unbeaten since he returned Dec. 8 after missing the start of the season with facial fractures after a fight with teammate Bobby Portis during practice.
Seven players scored in double figures for the Bulls (9-20), who dropped 10 in a row before their win streak. Justin Holiday scored all 20 of his points in the first half, and Portis finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“We’re just trying to compete each and every game,” Dunn said. “We know that eventually a loss will come, but right now we’re just trying to ride on the streak.”
Ben Simmons had 19 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Sixers, who lost for the sixth time in seven games. Dario Saric scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half.
“We’ve had too many times where we’ve gotten leads late in the game and we’ve given them up, so we’ve just got to learn how to finish,” said Robert Covington, who had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Philadelphia played without Joel Embiid, who rested on the first night of back-to-back games for the Sixers. The 7-foot center, who scored 34 points in Friday night’s triple-overtime loss to Oklahoma City, did not make the trip to Chicago.
Simmons and Saric helped Philadelphia get in position to stop the Bulls’ win streak in the fourth quarter, up 107-99 with 3:49 left. That’s when the Bulls responded with one of the best stretches of their suddenly interesting season.
Lauri Markkanen made a 3-pointer, Mirotic blocked Saric’s shot on the other end and Dunn made a tying 3-pointer with 2:46 left – part of a 15-2 spurt for the Bulls. Dunn’s jumper made it 114-109 with 1:05 remaining.
“We went through a scoring drought,” Dunn said. “We just needed to see the ball go in. Lauri, he’s a good shooter. We just needed to see one go in, and it ignited that fire.”
Simmons had a chance to tie it in the final seconds, but missed wildly and Mirotic grabbed the rebound.
“I knew I was going to take the shot,” Simmons said. “Tried to get to the rim, draw a foul, but trying to get a foul in the final quarter of a game like that, you know it’s going to be hard. It was a chance to win but it didn’t happen.”
Richaun Holmes had 14 points and seven rebounds for Philadelphia, which went 14 for 33 from 3-point range. J.J. Redick finished with 12 points.
OFF THE BENCH
David Nwaba put together another solid game for Chicago, scoring 10 points on 3-for-4 shooting. Nwaba, Mirotic and Portis helped the Bulls’ reserves outscore their counterparts 49-43.
76ers: T.J. McConnell had 11 points, six rebounds and five assists. ... Philadelphia outrebounded Chicago 47-39.
Bulls: Markkanen returned to the starting lineup after missing three straight games due to back spasms. The rookie missed his first five shots and finished with 10 points on 4-for-11 shooting. ... Mirotic spun Saric around late in the first quarter and then drained a 3-pointer right over him. Mirotic grinned as he ran up the court and the Bulls’ bench celebrated.
Sixers: Host Sacramento on Tuesday night. The Kings have dropped three of four.
Bulls: Host Orlando on Wednesday night. The Bulls beat the Magic 105-83 in Orlando in their first matchup of the season on Nov. 3.