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December 30, 2023

Instant observations: Sixers fall to Bulls to end road trip

The Sixers ended their four-game road trip in Chicago, but failed to put away the 14-19 Bulls.

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Sixers 12.30.23 Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports

Bulls center Andre Drummond dominated his former team on the glass Saturday night.

The Sixers finished up their four-game road trip on Saturday night when they faced off against the Chicago Bulls. The Sixers ultimately fell to the Bulls by a score of 105-92. Here is what jumped out from the loss:

Joel Embiid remains out

Embiid missed his fourth straight game as he nurses his ankle injury. There is no word on when Embiid will return, but with a three-game home-stand this upcoming week — including two straight off days in the middle of the week — it seems like he is getting closer to returning.

Nic Batum returns

Batum missed five straight contests before returning to action in this one, but he relinquished his starting spot to Kelly Oubre Jr. for the night. It remains to be seen if this is an indication that Oubre has supplanted Batum in the rotation or if it was a product of the team simply wanting to monitor his minutes closely and ease him back into action. 

In any case, Batum quickly was able to display his value by knocking down two triples in the first half, both beautiful strokes of the net. The second three Batum hit was released just in time to beat the shot clock, on a play where most guys would get called for a 24-second violation. Batum continues to utilize his lightning-quick release and ability to shoot threes without even dipping the ball first in order to knock shots down over solid contests.

Observing potential trade targets

The Bulls were without rumored trade candidate Zach LaVine in this one as he deals with a lingering foot injury. There are several reasons why he is not the ideal target for the Sixers. There is his ball-dominant nature, as well as his defensive weaknesses, his tendency to suffer injuries and the massive amount of years and dollars remaining on his contract.

Alex Caruso, though, could fit in perfectly in Philadelphia. He is a truly elite defensive player, perhaps the best guard defender in the entire NBA. He is a much-improved shooter from beyond the arc, a capable ball-handler and is under contract for another season after this one for just under $10 million.

Those are the two Bulls most likely to be moved, but they aren't the only ones. Torrey Craig, also currently injured, is a competent two-way wing. Jevon Carter is similar at the guard position. If the Sixers want to bolster their center rotation, bringing back Andre Drummond would make a lot of sense.

The Bulls are directionless right now. If they finally decide enough is enough and blow up their roster, the Sixers should give them a call.

Paul Reed: imperfect, but improving

Reed's play in recent weeks has been pretty lackluster, but he was able to rebound — literally and figuratively — in this one. Reed was not doing everything perfectly, but from the outset, he was the most active player on the floor. His motor was as high as ever, whether it came to battling Drummond on the boards or going after loose balls.

A rough Tyrese Maxey game

Maxey was absolutely brilliant in Houston on Friday night, scoring an efficient 42 points. In this one, though, he struggled to score with that same level of efficiency. Maxey was playing with the right mindset and thought process — maximum aggression with Embiid off the floor — but just could not get going for much of this contest. He also oddly struggled at the free throw line — the cherry on top of a night to forget.

A second half rotation change

After Robert Covington finally found his way back into Sixers head coach Nick Nurse's rotation on Friday night, on Saturday night he was not used in the second half. When the Sixers were in dire need of defense on the wing, Nurse instead opted to use KJ Martin. Martin has not been able to show a ton during his short Sixers tenure to date, but it's hard to see him do that unless he gets consistent, extended run. Nurse must pick a player and roll with them soon — the constant back-and-forth helps nobody.

Sixers dominated on the glass... again

The Sixers' biggest flaw in Houston on Friday night was their defensive rebounding — or lack thereof. They were absolutely pummeled by the Rockets on the glass. It is understandable when someone like Drummond pulls rebound after rebound — he is one of the best to ever do it. But most of Drummond's boards in this one were on the defensive end. The Sixers allowed far too many offensive rebounds to smaller Bulls players who should not be able to position themselves to grab so many missed shots. Offensive rebounds equal extra possessions, and extra possessions equal extra points.

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