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Sixers-Chicago Bulls observations, 'best' and 'worst' awards: Nikola Mirotic, Ben Simmons, another fourth-quarter meltdown

The Sixers lost their fifth consecutive game to an opponent that entered with a .500 or worse record.

The Bulls' Nikola Mirotic, celebrating his team's pulling away from the 76ers as Sixers guard JJ Redick looks on during the second half.
The Bulls' Nikola Mirotic, celebrating his team's pulling away from the 76ers as Sixers guard JJ Redick looks on during the second half.Read moreCharles Rex Arbogast / AP

CHICAGO – Here are my key takeaways and "best" and "worst" awards from the 76ers' 117-115  loss to the Chicago Bulls on Monday night at the United Center.

Five observations

Joel Embiid is worth every bit of the five-year,  $146.5-million extension he received in October. The Sixers, once again, missed his presence as he sat out because of what the they call "load management." While Dario Saric was a beast, the Sixers could have used Embiid's offensive and defensive post presence.  But this is nothing new, as the Sixers are 1-5 this season without the big man. They are 16-41 in games Embiid has missed since the start of last season.

Sixers coach Brett Brown said before the game that Ben Simmons would attempt some pull-up jumpers. That was newsworthy because the point guard is known for driving the lane and dunking.  Simmons did attempt five jumpers. All but two were six feet or closer to the basket, though. One was a 12-footer he missed in the third quarter. Another was a 75-foot desperation heave as time expired. In all, Simmons made one of his five jumpers.

—  This matchup was more proof that the Sixers have trouble against teams with .500 records or worse and in games decided by three or fewer points. They are 1-5 in those close matchups. Their lone win was a 112-110 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Oct. 28. Monday's matchup also marked their fifth consecutive loss to a team that had come in with a .500 or worse record.

— Saric is perhaps the lone Sixer who benefits from not playing with Embiid. The power forward scored a game-high 27 points, grabbed eight rebounds and had two steals. He made 10 of 19 shots, including 3 of 6 three-pointers. He had had outings of 13 points and 11 rebounds and 17 points, nine rebounds and six assists in the previous two games that Embiid missed.

— The Sixers are probably second-guessing not playing Richaun Holmes  for more than 3 minutes, 8 seconds in the fourth quarter. The reserve center started the quarter alongside Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, T.J. McConnell, JJ Redick and Robert Covington. However, he exited after picking up his fourth foul with 8:52 left and never returned. He had 14 points on 7-for-12 shooting and added seven rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block. Holmes took it to his hometown team.

‘Best’ and ‘worst’ awards

— Best performance: This was a tough one because Chicago point guard Kris Dunn had a solid game. But it's hard not to give this to Nikola Mirotic. The Bulls reserve forward collected 22 points, a game-high 13 rebounds, a steal and a block. His three-point play gave Chicago the lead (110-107) for good with 2:08 remaining.

— Worst performance: Paul Zipser failed to score and missed both of his shots in 10:18 of action. The Bulls reserve committed as many fouls (two) as he had rebounds (two) and also had a turnover.

— Best defensive performance: I had to give this to Simmons.  The rookie posted a game-high four blocks, all in the second half.

— Worst statistic: This goes to Robert Covington's shot attempts. The Sixers small forward went 3 for 5 from the field to finish with 10 points. Five attempts are unacceptable for one of the team's top shooters, especially in his hometown. Covington could have been more aggressive, but there were times when he was wide open at the three-point line and didn't get the ball.

— Best statistic: The Bulls' foul shooting. They made 16 of 19, 84 percent.

— Worst of the worst: This goes to the Sixers' blowing another fourth-quarter lead. They had a nine-point edge (105-96) after Jerryd Bayless' four-point play with 5:51 left. Afterward, they had a three-point jacking — and missing — contest.  Their next six shot attempts were missed threes. The Bulls took advantage of that and three Sixers turnovers to take a 112-107 lead with 1:26 to play.