Playing well and hard and leading for much of the first three quarters, the Bulls wasted a seven-point, fourth-quarter lead in a painful 97-88 loss to the 76ers before a sellout crowd of 20,647 at Wachovia Center.
"[Zendon] Hamilton and [Kenny] Thomas manhandled us down low," coach Scott Skiles said. "They played physical and we didn't respond."
Hamilton posted season highs with 15 points and 11 rebounds while Thomas matched his rebounds and led all scorers with 27 points for the nondescript 76ers, playing without Glenn Robinson and going into the game having lost six of seven.
Leading 83-79 with 6 minutes 5 seconds remaining, the Bulls surrendered an 18-2 run and didn't score another field goal until Rick Brunson's three-pointer with 6.5 seconds left.
"We're not going to win too many games if our backcourt shoots 10-for-38," Skiles said. "Our shot selection wasn't great in the second half."
Curry led the Bulls with 24 but didn't score in the fourth and attempted only one shot.
"I could've been more aggressive," Curry said.
Despite the loss, Skiles continued to gush about the progress of his team beforehand: "My guys areand have been for about a monthvery low maintenance. I'm encouraged by it, and I think they're starting to get what we're after.
"I like my team. Twenty minutes ago, we had Eddy Curry lifting. He came and wanted to get a lift in. Every morning, when I look outside my window at the Berto Center, I've got more and more guys shooting before practice starts. We continue to practice better. I've never been around a team that, once that started happening, it didn't eventually pay off with wins."
There was no payoff Saturday.
Bits: Skiles gave an interesting response when asked if he thought Allen Iverson is one of the game's toughest players. "He clearly has exhibited a high level of toughness as far as getting knocked around and getting injured and being able to play through it," Skiles said. "But all I know about him off the court is the whole thing about not practicing. On the surface, without being inside, I don't know if that means you're very tough." Iverson had 20 points and 11 assists. ... New Bull Paul Shirley, wearing No. 45, played the final 39.9 seconds. ... Kendall Gill returned from missing two games with a strained right Achilles' tendon, then took a shot to his right eye and played just one first-half minute. He finished with six points in 18 minutes.