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Bulls can’t sustain first-half sizzle in 109-92 loss to 76ers in Game 2

Joakim Noah (center) stares floor as clock runs out Bulls’ loss Tuesday night. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Joakim Noah (center) stares at the floor as the clock runs out in the Bulls’ loss Tuesday night. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 3, 2012 8:20AM



Derrick Rose can’t even be credited with an emotional assist after the Bulls dropped the ball Tuesday night in their first game since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

The injured superstar delivered the ceremonial game ball to midcourt before tipoff of Game  2 of the first-round playoff series between the Bulls and the Philadelphia 76ers at the United Center. That was as loud as the UC would get until late in the first half, when John Lucas III and Joakim Noah were doing what Rose has done so many times before: taking over the game.

The Bulls needed more inspiration from their leader at halftime because the emotion burned off during the break, along with their energy and tenacity. The Sixers dominated the third quarter against the suddenly defense-less Bulls en route to knotting up this Eastern Conference quarterfinal at one game apiece with a 109-92 victory.

Not only do the Bulls not have their MVP, but they no longer have the home-court edge heading into Game 3 on Friday in Philadelphia.

‘‘It was a disappointing effort overall,’’ Noah said. ‘‘We didn’t play well defensively. We didn’t play well offensively. We got our [butts] kicked.’’

How dominant were the 76ers in the third quarter? They outscored the Bulls 36-14, which turned an eight-point Bulls lead at halftime into a 14-point deficit after three. The Sixers shot 68.2 percent from the field in the third period while the Bulls connected on only a quarter of their shots.

With Rose watching from his family’s suite, the Sixers outrebounded the Bulls 14-5 in the quarter, had 12 more points in the paint and scored 11 fast-break points to none for the Bulls, resulting in a hole too deep for coach Tom Thibodeau’s team to escape.

The Bulls allowed the 76ers to convert a season-high 59 percent of their shots from the field for the game. They surrendered 100 points for just the 14th time this season, and the same fans who cheered Rose to start the game were streaming toward the exits midway through the fourth quarter.

‘‘We’re more embarrassed than anything,” Lucas said. ‘‘Losing like that at home, that’s not even us. We got into trying to outscore them, and that’s not our game. Defensively, we weren’t there at all from the start of the game to the end of the game.’’

The Sixers’ Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams and Evan Turner had their way on the floor. Holiday finished with a playoff career-high 26 points, while former St. Joseph star Turner had 19 points and seven rebounds. Williams scored 20 points to go with six assists.

The Bulls played like a team possessed in the first half, thanks largely to Noah and Lucas, who combined for 25 points. Noah twice kissed high, arcing hooks off glass. He nailed two long jumpers. He even attacked the basket during a second-quarter sequence, resulting in the Sixers’ Thaddeus Young falling backward while retreating toward the basket.

‘‘We’ve got to fight,’’ Noah said. ‘‘We didn’t do a good job of fighting.’’

Noah finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists while Lucas scored four points in the second half and finished with 15 and four assists. C.J. Watson added 12 points and three assists while Rip Hamilton added 10 points and five assists for a team that already was trying to put an ugly Game 2 behind it late Tuesday night.

‘‘We’ll see what we’re made of,’’ Noah said.



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