Bulls’ Overtime Hero Sounds Off After James Harden Rejection

The Chicago Bulls‘ march back into the NBA postseason picture continued in dramatic fashion on Monday. Facing a Philadelphia 76ers team that has designs on moving into the top two of the Eastern Conference — and doing so in a hostile environment at Wells Fargo Center, no less — the Bulls were able to hang on in a 109-105, double overtime thriller.

With just under 20 ticks remaining, Sixers star James Harden found a pathway to the tin and went for a layup that would have evened the game at 107. However, backup forward Derrick Jones Jr. was there to turn the shot back.

Chicago wasn’t just on Harden’s case during crunch time, however. They had harassed the former MVP throughout the night, and Jones — who has been in and out of Billy Donovan’s rotation this season — had a big hand in the effort.

In the aftermath of the big W, Jones gave credit to a former teammate and one of the Association’s ultimate vets for helping him learn how to persevere and affect winning in the face of difficult and/or changing circumstances (just as he did in Philly).

Bulls’ Derrick Jones Jr Gives a Shout to Heat’s Udonis Haslem After Huge Block

CLUTCH BLOCK BY DERRICK JONES JR.@TheRea1DJones | @NBCSChicago pic.twitter.com/NYAjtWO8DW

— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) March 21, 2023

During his walk-off interview with NBC Sports Chicago, Jones — who scored 10 points and added three rebounds and an assist to go with his block — shouted out an old Heat cohort for stressing the importance of staying ready so that, whenever opportunity does knock, he’s able to capitalize.

“When I was a young kid in this league one of my vets, Udonis Haslem, always told me, ‘Stay ready so you ain’t got to get ready.’ So, that’s one thing that I do. I stay ready so I ain’t gotta get ready,” Jones said.

“Whenever my number’s called, I’m ready to play. I’m ready to go out there and give it 110%.”

Clearly, he and his teammates were ready for Harden, who scored just five points on 2-of-14 shooting in the game. Consequently, Chicago outscored Philly by 11 points when he was on the floor.

“The game plan was to keep him right. We know he’s coming lefty — he’s a great facilitator, great finisher with his left hand. He can create a lot of plays for himself and others going off to this left, but we just tried to keep them right and just do whatever it took to make it a tough night for him.”

Joel Embiid Tastes Defeat for the First Time

By outlasting the Sixers, the Bulls’ record since point guard Patrick Beverley was added to the mix improved to an encouraging 8-4. However, the victory also signaled the end of a streak that the Windy City faithful have been dying to shed for a while now. Namely, Joel Embiid‘s undefeated streak against the club.

Although the Bulls have beaten the Sixers here and there over the years, Embiid’s crew had been a perfect 12-0 against Chicago when the six-time All-Star and perennial MVP candidate — who scored 37 points and added 16 boards and three blocks on Monday — actually played.

The Bulls will look to give Embiid a second loss to them on Wednesday when the two teams meet again at the United Center.

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