The Bulls missed Luol Deng and Richard Hamilton on Wednesday night. But they also missed Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose and Ronnie Brewer.
Those four starters sat out the fourth quarter of a 98-82 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers -- who were missing starting center Spencer Hawes -- after contributing to a disastrous third quarter in which the Sixers outscored the Bulls 26-11 to take a 75-55 lead into the fourth quarter.
''We played a messed-up game -- where we rubbed off on everybody else,'' said Rose, who scored 18 points on 8-of-17 shooting, with six assists and four turnovers. ''It was definitely the starters. They held us back pretty good and kept it on us. This is something we're not going to forget. I know I'm not.''
Rose was the only starter in double figures. Boozer had nine points and nine rebounds. Noah had two points and seven rebounds. Brewer scored six points. Kyle Korver, the other starter, scored nine points.
C.J. Watson (20 points on 6-of-14 shooting) and Taj Gibson (nine points, five rebounds, two blocks) and the reserves could get no closer than 12 points. But it didn't matter.
''Our starters were so lethargic in the third [quarter],'' coach Tom Thibodeau said, ''quite honestly if we had gotten it closer I was going to finish with the group we had in there, because they were fighting to get us out of it.''
The Bulls committed 17 turnovers, many of which the athletic Sixers turned into momentum-building fast-break points. The Sixers had a combined 10 steals from six different players. The Sixers committed just 10 turnovers.
The Bulls were missing injured starters Hamilton (sore thigh) and Deng (torn wrist ligament). But they were outplayed and out hustled so clearly, it's hard to use that as an excuse.
''It shouldn't [be],'' Thibodeau said. ''We're a deep team. It's one thing if you're playing great defense and rebounding and take care of the ball and you miss shots. That's one thing. But when you turn the ball over, you're beating yourself. That was the story of the game.''
Rose wasn't buying the short-handed excuse, either.
''I'm not trying got think that way,'' Rose said. ''We do miss them, but it's no excuse. We still have to play these games and put forth the effort. Tonight, it's clear we didn't.''
The Bulls fell behind 40-29 midway through the second quarter on Jrue Holliday's lay-in. But Rose scored eight points in the final 3:10 of the first half to cut the Sixers' lead to 49-44 at halftime.
But the Bulls missed their first six shots of the third quarter as Andre Iguodala -- the former Springfield Lanphier star -- scored six points, including a highlight-reel windmill stuff, as the Sixers took a 62-48 lead with 6:08 left in the quarter.
The Bulls shot 3-of-16 and committed six turnovers in the third quarter. The Sixers shot 12-of-27 and committed one turnover.
''We were loose with the ball and you can't be. They've got great hands,'' Thibodeau said. ''You've got to make simple plays. Simple passes. We got in a hole the second uarter, closed the half out OK and started the third quarter -- they played really hard. Our defense wasn't good. Our reaction to the ball was very poor. They beat us to loose balls. I give them a lot of credit.''
Iguodala and reserve Thaddeus Young led five Sixers in double figures with 19 points. Point guard Jrue Holliday added 17 points and five assists. Reserve Lavoy Allen scored 15 and another reserve, guard Lou Williams, added 14.
''That was a tremendous game our guys played,'' Sixers coach Doug Collins said. ''One of the keys for us tonight was our bench. We talked about dominating their bench. They actually started two guys who normally come off the bench. So I told our guys, 'They've got those two guys starting now. So we've got to do a great job.
''Andre Iguodala was spectacular tonight. That third quarter that he played for us was brilliant. He hit some big shots, had a nice run.''