76ers playing for playoff position, Bulls playing for future
According to STATSAccording to STATS
Philadelphia 76ers at Chicago Bulls
- The 76ers and Bulls have split a pair of meetings this season, each winning at home. Chicago has won 10 of its last 11 home games against the 76ers, with the only loss coming in March of last year.
- The Bulls' current roster ranks as the second youngest in the NBA, with an average age of 24 years and 293 days. Only the Suns are younger (24 years, 239 days).
- Philadelphia has won five straight games -- all at home -- matching the team's longest win streak of the season. It's the 76ers' first season with multiple win streaks of five or more games since the 2002-03 campaign.
- Ben Simmons had 18 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in last Tuesday's win over Miami, his sixth triple-double of the season. That's the most triple-doubles by a rookie since Magic Johnson had seven with the 1979-80 Lakers.
- Joe Embiid leads Philadelphia in scoring (23.7 ppg) and rebounding (11.1 rpg). He's on track to become the first 76er to average 20 and 10 in a season since Charles Barkley in 1991-92 (23.1 ppg, 11.1 rpg).
- No seven-footer has ever averaged 2.0 three-pointers per game in a season, something the 7'0" Lauri Markkanen is on track to do (113 in 51 games, 2.2 per game).
CHICAGO -- The Philadelphia 76ers will spend the rest of the regular season attempting to position themselves for a spot in the playoffs. The Chicago Bulls, meanwhile, will spend it focusing largely on the future.
The 76ers come out of the All-Star break as the Eastern Conference's No. 7 seed. But they will enter Thursday's game against the Bulls at the United Center well within reach of the No. 4 seed.
As they begin to approach the season's stretch run, the 76ers do so understanding that they their play will determine what their postseason chances look like, which provides plenty of incentive to build some momentum against a Chicago team that will devote chunks of the remainder of the regular season looking to develop young talent.
Philadelphia enters Thursday's game having won its last five games.
"The last couple of games, we've been playing great," 76ers center Joel Embiid told Philly.com. "So we just have to keep the same momentum."
In addition to angling for playoff positioning, the 76ers will begin the final 27-game stretch with the understanding that if they can get to within the top four seeds, they will begin the postseason with home-court advantage. Each of Philadelphia's past five victories all came at home.
The 76ers (30-25) are just two games back of No. 4 seed Washington and will face only seven teams with winning records the rest of the way. The Bulls are among the 20 opponents that are playing sub-.500 basketball, which should make for an easier road for Philadelphia.
But the 76ers also realize they must take advantage of the opportunity in front of them.
Embiid will return on Thursday after missing the final game before the break with an ankle injury. But even without him, Philadelphia was able to extend its winning streak behind Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Marco Belinelli -- all of whom reached double figures in a victory over the Heat as the 76ers erased a second-half 24-point deficit.
The 76ers won for just the third time in 11 games while playing without Embiid.
"So that was kind of great for the guys to know that they didn't need me all the time," Embiid said.
The Bulls (20-37) have lost eight of their past 10 games as they prepare to finish the regular season in experimental mode. While the Bulls have gotten solid performances from its young core of Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and rookie Lauri Markkanen, Chicago is committed to seeing what it can get from younger players who have spent this season performing mostly as reserves.
Thursday against Philadelphia, Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba will replace Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday in the starting lineup as Bulls executives strive to better understand what they have in place as they start to enter the next phase of what is expected to be a multi-year rebuilding process.
"You can't play 12 guys in our game. Nine or 10 is the most. And it's just the position we're in as a young team, (with a) 20-37 (record), with a lot of young guys and several who we haven't really had the chance to see play much this year," Bulls executive vice president John Paxson told the Chicago Tribune. "For us to make the proper evaluation in terms of who fits us moving forward, this is something we have to do."
Paxson added: "We have to look at the big picture."
Updated February 21, 2018