The Philadelphia 76ers will aim to defeat Chicago for the seventh straight time when they visit the Bulls on Monday night.
The 76ers recorded two of those triumphs earlier this season and look for the season sweep as they try to bolster their Eastern Conference championship hopes.
Philadelphia (43-21) has won its past four games and holds a half-game lead over the second-place Brooklyn Nets.
The 76ers, whose winning streak against the Bulls started in the 2018-19 season, posted a 113-111 overtime win Sunday over the San Antonio Spurs in the opener of a three-game trip. It also was the first of five games during a seven-day span for the Sixers.
Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers will be observing his players closely with just eight games left in the regular season.
“We want to keep guys healthy at the end of the day,” Rivers told reporters. “We want to win games. We want to get them the proper amount of rest. We obviously have a plan on what we want to do, and so we’ll follow it.
“We’re not going to look at the standings or anything like that to decide what we’re going to do — I can say that.”
MVP candidate Joel Embiid again will look to torment the Bulls on Monday.
Embiid scored a career-best 50 points when the 76ers recorded a 112-105 home win over the Bulls on Feb. 19. He made 17-of-26 field-goal attempts and had 17 rebounds, five assists, four blocked shots and two steals.
The star center missed Philadelphia’s 127-105 road trouncing of Chicago on March 11 due to COVID-19 contact tracing.
Embiid contributed 34 points and 12 rebounds in the victory over San Antonio on Sunday. His shot at the end of overtime bounced off the rim, but Ben Simmons tipped it in as time expired.
“I knew Joel was going to get a good look,” Simmons said. “We trust him with those shots. I was just there to clean it up.”
The Bulls (26-38) have lost three straight games and four of their past five and rapidly are sliding out of the playoff race in the East.
Chicago is three games behind the Washington Wizards for the final play-in spot in the conference.
The Bulls have badly missed All-Star guard Zach LaVine, who has sat out the past 10 games due to health and safety protocols. LaVine, who ranks sixth in the NBA with a 27.5 scoring average, is listed as doubtful for Monday’s game.
Big man Nikola Vucevic (adductor) missed Saturday’s 108-97 road loss to the Atlanta Hawks and is listed as questionable.
Veteran forward Thaddeus Young scored 20 points against the Hawks and said it is hard to make up for the absences of talents such as LaVine and Vucevic.
“I think the challenge is sustainability,” Young said. “It’s hard to sustain without your two best scorers in the lineup. That’s a total of almost 50 points between the two of them. … That has to come from somewhere, and we have to do it as a collective group. That’s the hardest part.”
Despite the Bulls being 12 games below .500, coach Billy Donovan said there is no thought of looking to the future and resting veterans in hopes of getting a better draft selection.
“I haven’t had any conversations like that,” Donovan said. “Our focus is on Philly. We have not had any discussions along those lines at all.”
–Field Level Media