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Sixers-Bulls: Nikola Mirotic makes Joel Embiid-less Sixers pay, and other quick thoughts from a 117-115 loss

Five quick observations from the Sixers loss in Chicago.

Dario Saric scored a season-high 27 points Monday night.
Dario Saric scored a season-high 27 points Monday night.Read moreCharles Rex Arbogast / AP Photo

Let this be a lesson…

There is no team in the NBA that can be underestimated. The Sixers knew that the Bulls were on a winning streak and that Nikola Mirotic was leading the charge. They knew they would be without Joel Embiid and Trevor Booker, they've won without them before. But the Bulls came out swinging, kept the Sixers at arms length through the first part of the game, then charged back in the closing moments for Chicago's sixth straight win. Let this be a lesson to the Sixers (one that they should have already learned) — nobody is safe in this league and closing out games is the most important thing. Ben Simmons nearly had his fourth triple-double and showed a great amount of aggression, but it's going to take more than that. That's eight losses in the last 11 games for the Sixers. There needs to be a mentality shift.

Second-half defense

The Sixers started with an ugly game, but late in the third quarter locked down on the defensive end to put the game back in their favor. The good sign is that the Sixers are able to recognize problems and correct them on the fly, and the brand of defense they showed through a large part of the second half against Chicago is top-notch. The bad sign is that more often than not we see that they don't do this for the full 48 minutes. There's no shame in small lapses or mistakes, but lacking in large portions of games is a problem.

Richaun Holmes and Dario Saric

What more can Holmes do to show that he deserves more minutes on the floor? He rebounds, tips misses, scores the ball, he's a big guy who plays with speed, he trails drivers, and plays hard on defense. Brett Brown started Amir Johnson against the Bulls, but coming out of halftime he decided to go with Holmes, no doubt because of his success in the first half. This is not the first time that Holmes has provided a spark that the team has needed and it certainly won't be the last. He finished with 14 points and seven rebounds off the bench. Saric finished with a team and season-high 27 points, doing all that he could to put the Sixers on his back. He hit huge shots down the stretch, but the Bulls were just a smidgen better in the end.

Where’s the energy?

For the first half of the night the Sixers were playing a really weird version of disjointed and flat basketball in particular on the offensive end. It seemed like the ball stuck after every pass, there was no flow to anything, and the unforced turnovers didn't help at all. You have to hate seeing the Sixers play like this, especially against one of the NBA's lower tier teams. The defense picked up in the second half which created better offensive opportunities, but a cohesive and smooth start would have been more encouraging.

Starting from three

The Sixers' three-point shooting has been spotty lately and it seems like it's taken a lot of the guys a while to get into a rhythm from deep during a game. With that in mind, the Sixers started out Monday's game with nine of their first 18 points coming off three-pointers, including their first two shots of the game. Dario Saric, JJ Redick, and Robert Covington all hit from three in the opening minutes. After a drop off in the fourth quarter (going 10-of-21 from three through the first three quarters), the Sixers finished the night 14-of-33 from three-point range, it looks like a good strategy to start shooting early and often.