PHILADELPHIA – Ben Simmons wasn’t among the players selected as All-Star Game reserves – and the rookie showed what the league will be missing.
Simmons had 19 points, 17 rebounds and 14 assists for his fifth triple-double of the season to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 115-101 victory over the Bulls.
Dario Saric added 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Joel Embiid had 22 points for the 76ers, who have won seven of 10.
“I wish I did make it,” Simmons said, “but hopefully there will be plenty more years.”
Embiid, picked to be a starter for the Eastern Conference last week, thinks the omission spurred Simmons.
“He was focused,” Embiid said. “He just wanted it.”
Philadelphia played without guards JJ Redick (left leg), T.J. McConnell (personal) and Jerryd Bayless (left wrist), but Simmons picked up the slack.
The rookie was only two assists away from a triple-double in the first half when he helped the 76ers to a 55-41 halftime lead with 11 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. His slam dunk with 7:40 left in the third quarter was part of a dominating period for Philadelphia.
Embiid’s 3-pointer with 4:23 left in the third stretched the 76ers’ lead to 25 points at 79-54. Embiid threw his hands up to get an already excited Philadelphia sports crowd even more revved up.
Philadelphia has had difficulty protecting late leads this season and blew a 15-point second-half advantage in Monday’s 105-101 loss at Memphis, but the 25-point cushion was more than enough for the hot-shooting 76ers.
Philadelphia coach Brett Brown ostensibly called out Simmons and Embiid after the loss to the Grizzlies, saying, “Our stars weren’t stars tonight.”
He had praise for them following Wednesday’s victory.
“They were really good tonight, and they were really good in the areas we needed them to be,” he said.
Bobby Portis scored 22 points, and Zach LaVine had 21 for the Bulls.
The Bulls, who began play five games behind the eighth-place 76ers in the East, have been playing better basketball of late. But they still could have been reeling from Monday’s 132-128 double-overtime loss to New Orleans, in which they blew an 18-point fourth-quarter lead.
“There was probably a little hangover from that game, but you can’t let it affect the way you play,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I don’t think we came out with any grit, toughness tonight. It just kind of became ‘my-turn shot.’ A guy took a bad one and he said, ‘Well, if he’s going to take a bad one, I’m going to take a bad one.’ It just kind of trickled down.”
The Bulls did get some good news before the game as Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen were selected by the league’s assistant coaches to the Rising Stars game, which features first- and second-year players and will be played Feb. 16. Dunn will play on the U.S. team while Markkanen will compete for the World squad.
Embiid, Simmons and Saric will team with Markkanen on the World team in the Rising Stars game.
FLY, EAGLES, FLY
With Philadelphia set to play the Patriots next week in the Super Bowl, the crowd erupted in several E-A-G-L-E-S! chants during the game.
“I was happy,” Embiid said. “Got one more game. Saint Nick (Foles) did a great job.”
Bulls: Ryan Arcidiacono, who played college ball at nearby Villanova, received a loud cheer when he entered with 3:13 left in the first quarter. ... Dunn (concussion) missed his third straight game.
76ers: Former Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels got a standing ovation when he was introduced in the second quarter. ... Former heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield and NFL Hall of Famer Franco Harris sat a few seats from each other courtside. ... Philadelphia made 16 3-pointers, finishing 16 for 32.
Bulls: Host the Lakers on Friday night.
76ers: Begin four-game road trip at San Antonio Friday night.