(WSCR) – The Bulls and 76ers kept the first half close with the Bulls ahead just two points. Chicago struggled to score in the third period, allowing Philadelphia to make a strong lead and hand the Bulls their second loss in a row.
Jodie Meeks scored 24 points, Lou Williams had 20, and the Philadelphia 76ers avenged a 45-point loss to Chicago with a 105-99 victory over the Bulls on Friday night.
Jrue Holiday added 19 for the 76ers, who lost 121-76 on Dec. 21 in Chicago.
The Sixers believe they’re a playoff team and have the young nucleus to get there. Meeks and Holiday gave them plenty of reason for hope in a thrilling third quarter where the two guards combined to shoot 7 for 7 for 18 points.
The Sixers hit their first nine shots in the third and 11 overall to turn a four-point hole into a 12-point lead.
Holiday sizzled, drawing a foul on Derrick Rose on a driving layup for a three-point play that gave the Sixers the lead. Meeks busted out of a big slump with consecutive 3-pointers, the second off Holiday’s steal, that built it to 82-70.
The Sixers needed that cushion in the fourth.
The Bulls closed within five late in the quarter, then Holiday threw a blind pass into the hands of Kyle Korver. Rose made two free throws that cut it to 102-99.
Andres Nocioni, forced out of the first half with a finger injury, grabbed a key defensive rebound and hit two free throws for a 104-99 lead and the Sixers held on for the victory.
Carlos Boozer shook off a fourth-quarter benching against New Jersey to lead the Bulls with 31 points. Rose had 27 and Luol Deng 22.
After the Bulls, the Sixers start a stretch where they can pad their record against sub.-500 teams. A schedule that has Detroit, Indiana, Milwaukee and Charlotte before a Jan. 19 game at Orlando is a prime opportunity for the Sixers to climb back toward .500 and prove they are legitimate playoff contenders.
The Sixers need to fit Andre Iguodala back into the mix when he returns next week. Iguodala missed his sixth straight games with Achilles’ tendinitis.
The Bulls and Sixers were taking and making shots like a playground pickup game from the opening tip. Williams provided a fitting end to a wild half when he buried a 3 at the buzzer to cut the Bulls’ lead to 56-54 at the break.
The long shot sparked the Sixers. Elton Brand, healthy and revitalized after two dismal seasons in Philadelphia, started the can’t-miss fun with a 15-footer. They hit pull-up jumpers and finger rolls to slice Chicago’s lead.
Holiday electrified a solid crowd with his three-point play on Rose, then hit a 19-footer to make the Sixers 8 for 8 in the quarter and give them a 71-66 lead.
Sixers coach Doug Collins raved about the 20-year-old Holiday in the preseason and predicted he’d be one of the top-five point guards in the league next season.
Too soon to move up that timetable?
Holiday has scored 20-plus in five of the last seven games and has often been Philadelphia’s best player on the court. When Meeks is on his game, the two form a potent backcourt.
Meeks – who began the season with a string of DNP-CDs – has started the last 18 games and played one of the best games of his career. When Holiday forced a turnover late in the third, he fed the ball to Meeks for a 3 and a nine-point lead.
Meeks capped a 32-point quarter for the Sixers with a little runner for a 12-point lead. The Sixers shot 78 percent (14 for 18 overall; 3 of 4 3s) in the third.
Hard to believe these two teams played some a lopsided game last month. The Bulls led 61-43 at halftime of that one. When they hit 62 points in the third on Friday, the Bulls only led by four.
“I watched the tape and I didn’t recognize our team,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said before Friday’s game. “I’m hoping tonight is going to be a lot better.”
He got his wish.
NOTES: 76ers C Tony Battie was inactive and will miss Saturday’s game at Detroit with right rotator cuff tendinitis. … Bulls assistant coach Rick Brunson was announced as part of the Big 5 Hall of Fame’s 2011 class. Brunson played for Temple from 1991-95 and ranks fifth on the school’s career list in assists (470). … Bulls assistant coach Ed Pinckney, who led Villanova to the 1985 national championship, said he’d still be calling 76ers games if not for a chance meeting with coach Tom Thibodeau. Pinckney said he now wants to be a head coach in the NBA or at the collegiate level.
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