February 28, 2024

The Chicago Bulls will end 2023 only four games below .500 after beating the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday for the second time this month.

Despite a sloppy performance defined by turnovers and poor 3-point shooting , the Bulls took advantage of a short-handed 76ers team to secure a 105-92 win at the United Center. DeMar DeRozan led the Bulls with 24 points and Coby White added 20.

This is the second win in three games for the Bulls without starting center Nikola Vučević. They are 10-5 since star guard Zach LaVine first sat out with a right foot injury.

Here are five takeaways from the win.

By the end of the first quarter, Drummond had already pulled down nine rebounds — all on the defensive end. That defined his impact throughout his third start with the Bulls, which he dominated on the boards as he continues to fill in for Vučević.

The 76ers employed a familiar method of attacking Drummond in the final minutes of the game, purposefully sending him to the free-throw line — he finished 3-for-10. But Donovan kept Drummond in the game late, and he scored four points — a transition dunk and a putback — before finally exiting.

Drummond finished with 15 points and 23 rebounds.

Finding any source of scoring was a slog for the 76ers, who were missing their star center because of a right ankle sprain. The 76ers went 9-for-38 (23.7%) from behind the arc and shot only 39.1% from the floor overall. Tyrese Maxey led them with 20 points, but the rest of the starting group struggled to find its shot.

The Bulls held the 76ers below 100 points, another important step as the team improves its defensive standing midway through the season. The defense has averaged a 110.2 rating over the last five games, best in the league.

“We’ve gotten better defensively,” coach Billy Donovan said. “We’ve contested pretty well all year long and we’ve generally been pretty good at forcing some turnovers with our activity and being in the right position. But I do think our defense has taken a jump over these last 12 or 13 games. That’s been pretty significant.”

The Bulls managed the win despite a bevy of mistakes. They coughed up 16 turnovers, led by five from Coby White. It was a high volume of errors that kept the offense from fully reaching the natural rhythm that fed recent wins.

However, the 76ers failed to take full advantage of those opportunities, scoring only 18 points off turnovers. The Bulls managed 13 points off only seven Philadelphia turnovers to stay level in that scoring statistic.

The Bulls also shot only 28% (7-for-25) on 3-pointers, but the Sixers also shot poorly from long range, finishing 9-for-38 (23.7%).

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The Bulls are forced to go small when Drummond isn’t on the court, relying on Taylor, a 6-foot-4 forward, to fill in as the backup center. Despite being undersized for the position, however, Taylor provided a necessary lift.

Taylor attacked his defensive matchups regardless of size mismatches, poking the ball away from guards and keeping posts off the block. He was buoyant on the offensive end, making an up-and-under layup and sinking a putback off an offensive rebound. Taylor finished with four points, three steals, two rebounds and an assist.

“I’ve played it my whole life so I’m used to it,” Taylor said. “I’m kind of used to people not being so sure about me playing center because of my size but I’ve got the heart and the will to go out there and compete against anybody.”

It has never been in Beverley’s nature to refrain from some trash talk on the court.

The former Bulls guard was eager to engage with his former teammates in his first return to his hometown since signing with the 76ers in the offseason, chirping at the Bulls bench throughout the game. DeRozan talked back and forth with him all night, hitting the guard with his favorite “too small” gesture after scoring over him in the final minute of the first half.

Beverley finished with four points, three assists and two rebounds.

The teams play the finale of their season series Tuesday in Philadelphia.