The 76ers never really had a chance.
The Chicago Bulls came to town with an all-star tandem in Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade. They also had an assist machine in Rajon Rondo. Meanwhile, the Sixers were without their best player in Joel Embiid.
That combination led to a 105-89 victory by the Bulls on Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
"Right at the start of it, you felt the physicality, you felt the age, you felt the veteran experience," said coach Brett Brown, whose Sixers (4-12) lost their second consecutive game. "You saw Rondo, Wade, and Butler and you saw an NBA team that's good."
The Sixers' 11th consecutive loss to the Bulls (10-6) also had a lot to do with sluggish starts to the game and the second half.
The Bulls opened up 8-0, 11-2, and 20-8 advantages in the first quarter. The Sixers battled back and pulled within one point (23-22) early in the second quarter. But lack of production from their starting unit hurt their efforts.
At one point, Jahlil Okafor, who started in place of Embiid, shot 4 for 7 from the field. The Sixers' other starters were a combined 0 for 10 until Ersan Ilyasova hit a three-pointer with 4 minutes, 19 seconds left in the half. The power forward's three-pointer pulled the Sixers within 12 points (45-33).
The Bulls put the game away with a 21-5 run to end the third quarter. Chicago led by as many as 28 points (101-73) with 8 minutes, 23 seconds remaining
"Once you get down by 25 [points], it's really tough to get back into the game," said Sixers reserve guard Nik Stauskas, whose squad committed 19 turnovers. "So our mind-set was to just go out there and play hard."
Wade and Butler led the Bulls with 26 points apiece. They could have scored more. Butler didn't play in the fourth quarter, while Wade exited the game with 7:13 remaining.
Rondo, who also sat out the fourth quarter, finished with six points, 10 assists, eight rebounds, two steals, and one turnover. Eight of his assists came in the first half.
"You walked in that gym from the get-go and you knew you were going to be in for a fistfight and with a physical team, a bunch of men, all-star men and championship men," Brown said.
Ilyasova led the Sixers with 14 points, seven rebounds, and two assists. Stauskas and reserve center Richaun Holmes had 13 points apiece. Point guard Jerryd Bayless, who was making his first start, and reserve guard Hollis Thompson each had 11.
Okafor added 10 points on 5-for-11 shooting to go with six rebounds, one turnover and one block. The 6-foot-11, 265-pounder has scored in double digits in all four of his starts. That's way better than his performances off the bench.
In his previous three starts, the third pick of the 2015 draft averaged 17.3 points. Okafor averaged only 8.2 points in the 11 games he came off the bench.
"I have realized my better games are when I'm starting, because that's what I'm accustomed to," he said. "You know we warm up, call the names out, and I'm right on the court. I can get right in the rhythm."
Okafor knows that he'll come in around the eight-minute mark of the first quarter in the games he doesn't start. But he said it feels weird.
"I'm sure it's going to go away, eventually," he said. "Honestly, it just feels weird when I come in off the bench and try to be engaged right away."
Other than occasionally coming off the bench last season, Okafor has been a starter throughout his career. Not just any starter - he's been regarded as the best player on his team. But this season, he's a backup to Embiid. It's been a hard adjustment, and he's experienced some growing pains.
Embiid had a scheduled off day to rest his right foot. The third overall pick in the 2014 draft missed the last two seasons after surgeries on the right navicular bone. Embiid doesn't play both games of back-to-backs. Brown said the team was unsure if he'll play Sunday at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers or Monday against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre.
"Nothing I can share now, because it's not definitive," he said.
Former Sixer Isaiah Canaan scored eight points on 2-for-9 shooting for the Bulls.