CHICAGO - Just after midnight on Monday morning, 76ers coach Doug Collins sent a text message to forward Thaddeus Young.
Each was relaxing in the same Chicago hotel, preparing for that night's game against the Bulls. Collins told Young he'd bounce back after his poor shooting performance against the Sacramento Kings.
Young responded, "You can count on me."
Although this exchange included only Collins and Young, the necessity of "bouncing back" and the need for everyone to be "counted on" extended across the entire roster.
That roster responded emphatically.
The Sixers defeated the Chicago Bulls, 97-85, at the United Center Monday night. The Sixers, who led by as many as 23 points, now have beaten the Eastern Conference's best team twice.
"I told you before the game that I had a resilient group of guys," Collins said, "and to think we would come in here after the game we had [on Sunday] and play like we did, these guys never cease to amaze me."
The Sixers improved to 38-36 with just eight games remaining in the regular season. The Bulls' 14-game home winning streak was snapped, dropping them to 53-20.
A day earlier, it was as if the Kings had stuck a pin in the Sixers' inflating balloon. In the hours after that deflating overtime loss, long after the Sixers had taken off for Chicago, it seemed everyone in Philadelphia was talking about the Lil Wayne rap concert a few Sixers had attended on Saturday night.
Unprofessional, distracted, immature - these were the adjectives floating around.
Kind of silly, when you think about what the Sixers have done this season: They haven't lost three games in a row since Nov. 26.
"It's like a microcosm of the whole season," said Sixers power forward Elton Brand. "We've been playing great after we make mistakes and have a tough loss. We bounce back great."
As the Sixers built their preposterous first-half lead, you knew this game would come down to whether they could hold onto those early gains.
They could not.
By the beginning of the fourth quarter, this game was essentially back up for grabs. The Sixers won by building a 23-point lead in the first half, enduring some very bad offense across the end of the second and third quarters, and then making enough buckets late in the game.
For the Sixers, reserve forward Thaddeus Young scored 21 points in 24 minutes and Andre Iguodala scored 19 points and dished out seven assists. Derrick Rose's 31 points, 24 of them in the second half, led the Bulls. But Rose also turned the ball over 10 times.
Sixers center Spencer Hawes (14 points) hit a trio of late jumpers to preserve the win.
"We really stepped it up a notch and jumped on them early," said Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday. "This is probably one of the only teams I've been on that has that much heart. Losing, to us - we take it personally."