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Bulls’ lethargic starters end it early against 76ers

Bulls reserves Brian Scalabrine (left) Jimmy Butler fight for loose ball with 76ers’ Jrue Holiday second half when loss appeared

Bulls reserves Brian Scalabrine (left) and Jimmy Butler fight for a loose ball with the 76ers’ Jrue Holiday in the second half, when a loss appeared inevitable. | H. Rumph Jr.~AP

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Updated: March 3, 2012 11:42AM

PHILADELPHIA — The Bulls missed Luol Deng and Richard Hamilton on Wednesday night. But they also missed Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose and Ronnie Brewer.

Those four starters sat out the fourth quarter of a 98-82 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers after contributing to a disastrous third quarter in which the Sixers outscored the Bulls 26-11 to take a 7-55 lead.

‘‘We played a messed-up game where we rubbed off on everybody else,’’ said Rose, who scored 18 points on 8-for-17 shooting with six assists and four turnovers. ‘‘It was definitely the starters. They held us back pretty good and kept it on us. This is something we’re not going to forget. I know I’m not.’’

Rose was the only starter in double figures. Boozer had nine points and nine rebounds. Noah had two points and seven rebounds. Brewer scored six points. Kyle Korver, the other starter, scored nine.

C.J. Watson (20 points on 6-for-14 shooting, four assists, three turnovers) and Taj Gibson (nine points, five rebounds, two blocks) and the reserves could get no closer than 12 points. But it didn’t matter.

‘‘Our starters were so lethargic in the third [quarter],’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said, ‘‘quite honestly, if we had gotten it closer, I was going to finish with the group we had in there because they were fighting to get us out of it.’’

Watson-Rose duo

Thibodeau made good on his promise to give Watson more minutes, but with unspectacular results.

With Watson and Rose paired on the court in the final 7:04 of the first half, the Bulls outscored the Sixers 15-11. When they played together in the final 3:18 of the third quarter, the Bulls were outscored 9-3.

Bullish on the Bulls

Former Bulls coach Doug Collins is doing his usual bang-up job of turning a struggling young team into a winner. He took a 27-55 team in 2009-10 and went 41-41 last year, losing in the first round of the playoffs. The Sixers are 16-6 after beating the Bulls — a pace to win 60 games in a full regular season.

Collins sees a lot of similarities between his team and the Bulls — with one notable difference.

‘‘When I used to do TV, I would look at the power teams,’’ Collins said. ‘‘No. 1, your point-differential; No.  2, your field-goal differential; No. 3, your road record; and No. 4, do you have a star that can go on the road and break through in a playoff series? [The Bulls] have all those things. That’s why they’re a threat to win it all.’’

Turner’s travails

Former St. Joseph star Evan Turner, the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft, is coming off the bench after learning some hard lessons under Collins as a rookie. But he’s more effective, averaging 10.2 points and 6.1 rebounds in 26 minutes a game. He averaged 7.2 points, 2.0 assists and 3.9 rebounds as a rookie.

Turner scored two points on 1-for-5 shooting but had six rebounds, four assists and two steals in 25 minutes.

‘‘You just have to make the best out of everything and just be grateful you’re in the situation you’re in,’’ said Turner, who finished third to Rose in Mr. Basketball voting in 2007. ‘‘I got frustrated last year, and it didn’t help. . . . In this day and age, people don’t have patience. But we have an old-school coach. He’s all about patience.’’

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