The Philadelphia 76ers might be the hot up-and-coming team in the Eastern Conference, but the Chicago Bulls are starting to show that their rebuilding process is moving in the right direction as well. The Bulls will try to pull off their sixth consecutive victory when they host the 76ers on Monday.
Chicago’s winning streak coincides directly with the return of power forward Nikola Mirotic, who missed the first 23 games recovering from facial fractures after a fight with fellow forward Bobby Portis during training camp. Portis and Mirotic are not speaking off the court, but the two are becoming a dynamic duo between the lines and are averaging a combined 35.6 points over the last five games. Philadelphia has its own dynamic duo in point guard Ben Simmons and center Joel Embiid, but the two managed to lead their team to just one win in the last six games. “We all want it all yesterday; it’s the nature of all of us, especially in this city,” 76ers coach Brett Brown told the team’s website. “The evolution of our guys, where we are right now, what I feel in the locker room, what I feel at the practice facility, I’m proud of our guys, and I’m confident in our team, and the way we’re trying to steer the program.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBCS Philadelphia-plus, NBCS Chicago
ABOUT THE 76ERS (14-14): Philadelphia will be taking the court for the first time since suffering a heartbreaking 119-117 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in triple-overtime on Friday. Embiid logged a career-high 48 minutes and scored 34 points in the setback and Simmons came up one rebound shy of a triple-double, but the 76ers still suffered their fourth straight single-digit defeat. “We put ourselves in a great position to really be in the game,” small forward Robert Covington told reporters. “It was unfortunate that we took a loss. These are the types of losses that hurt the worst, especially all the fight we put into the game.”
ABOUT THE BULLS (8-20): Portis scored a career-high 27 points and Mirotic added 22 in a 115-109 win at Milwaukee on Friday, and the two are moving beyond their off-the-court issues. “Everything is the team,” Portis told reporters. “We’re professionals, we’re basketball players and this is our job. We have to come in every day and find a way to make it work and I feel like we’ve done it to this point. It’s been fun playing with Niko. He’s a hell of a player. He’s been playing out of his mind since he’s been back. I’m happy for him. I’m happy to have him back.” Mirotic scored at least 22 points in each of the last three games and is shooting 56.3 percent from the floor in that span.
1. Bulls rookie PF Lauri Markkanen (back spasms) missed the last three games and is day-to-day.
2. 76ers PF Trevor Booker (ankle) left Friday’s game and was already ruled out for Monday.
3. The Bulls took three of the four meetings last season, with Philadelphia’s lone win coming at Chicago on March 24.
PREDICTION: 76ers 115, Bulls 111