Bulls hold off 76ers 96-91

Philadelphia 76ers' Thaddeus Young, left, and Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose hug at the end of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 4, 2012, in Philadelphia. The Bulls won 96-91. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

March 4, 2012 7:11:23 PM PST
Derrick Rose tied a season high with 35 points, and Joakim Noah had 11 points and 18 rebounds to lead the Chicago Bulls to their sixth straight win, 96-91 over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.

In a battle of division leaders, the Bulls made all the big shots over the final minutes to end a three-game losing streak against the Sixers.

Leading 91-89, the Bulls turned the ball over, but Andre Iguodala tossed up an airball on a 3-point attempt. Again the Bulls turned the ball over, and this time it was Thaddeus Young who missed a jumper for the Sixers. At least his shot hit the rim.

Rose made them pay for the misses, going left hand-to-right for a one-handed shot on the run for a 93-89 lead with 20.2 seconds left.

Iguodala's tying 3 clanged off the backboard and finished off the Sixers. Iguodala scored 14 points, and Elton Brand had 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Sixers.

Carlos Boozer scored 13 points for the Bulls. Young had 17 points and Jrue Holiday 16 for the Sixers.

The Bulls alternated in the fourth between sloppy play and clutch buckets. Late in the quarter, Rose's pass attempt went over Noah's head and was intercepted by Holiday that led to Young's dunk to make it 87-85. Noah and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau exchanged words on the bench in a timeout, perhaps over miscommunication on that play. Noah placed his hand on Thibodeau's shoulder to make a point.

C.J. Watson, playing with a sprained left ankle, made one of his own on long jumper on the next play.

Rose took it from there. He had nailed a 22-footer at the halftime buzzer and another long jumper with a hand in his face to end the third that tied it at 64.

The Bulls carried that last-shot momentum into the fourth. Luol Deng hit a pair of 3s early in the quarter and Rose continued to torment the Sixers.

Still, the Sixers kept the Bulls in their sight, and Holiday's dunk pulled them to 82-78. But the Sixers weren't smart with the ball and Iguodala's long 3 hit nothing but air - even as he protested in vain it was tipped.

The Sixers, losing their grip on the Atlantic Division, give the Bulls fits each time they play.

"We know that we have that team's attention," Collins said.

Collins coached the Bulls from 1986-89 before Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan turned them into a 1990s dynasty. In his return to Chicago in his first season with the Sixers, the Bulls put a 45-point smackdown on them in December. Collins lamented before the game how the loss spoiled his Christmas.

The 76ers had made Chicago pay since that loss, winning three straight in the series.

"It was one of the toughest losses I ever had," Collins said. "I thought it was a tremendous learning experience for us."

The Sixers won a pair last season, then added a 16-point victory on Feb. 1 in Philadelphia this year.

Collins had a dose of good news before the game. Spencer Hawes, their 7-foot-1 starting center, is close to returning after sitting out almost a month with a strained left Achilles tendon. Hawes, who ditched a protective boot last week, could return to the lineup by the middle of the month. Collins said if Hawes (10.5 points, 8.3 rebounds) suffers no setbacks, the big man could play about 5 minutes a quarter, possibly starting March 14 at Indiana.

With Hawes out, the Sixers got surprising contributions from rookies Lavoy Allen and Nik Vucevic. Brand also has picked up his game and had his third straight double-double.

Brand had a big block on Noah in the first half, then scooped the loose ball on a bad-pass turnover on Chicago's next possession. The Sixers led 46-40 at the break and kept rolling in the third. Iguodala slammed home Holiday's jumper off the front of the rim, and Young made a sweet spin around Taj Gibson that wobbled the forward in the paint for a bucket.

Once Deng, Noah and Richard Hamilton warmed up offensively, the Bulls got going. At one point in the first half, the trio were a combined 2 of 11 for four points. That was long forgotten by the fourth, and when Deng hit consecutive 3s early in the quarter, the Bulls turned the deficit into a 74-66 lead.

Notes: Collins felt the pain when Duke lost to North Carolina on Saturday night. Collins' son, Chris, is an assistant for the Blue Devils. "Do I feel it? That's your son sitting over there on the bench getting beat," he said. "Yeah, I feel it." ... 76ers broadcaster Malik Rose is pulling for the Drexel Dragons to win the Colonial Athletic Association tournament Monday. Rose led the Dragons to the tournament from 1994-96, but the program hasn't been back. "I think they still have a good chance at getting an at-large," he said.