CHICAGO (AP) — The Philadelphia 76ers played without James Harden, and then Joel Embiid departed with mild right calf tightness.
It didn’t matter.
Tyrese Maxey scored 16 of his 21 points during Philadelphia’s dominant first half, and the 76ers beat the Chicago Bulls 116-91 on Wednesday night.
De’Anthony Melton had 25 points and Tobias Harris finished with 20 as Philadelphia earned a split of its four-game season series against Chicago. Embiid had 12 points, seven rebounds and seven assists before sitting out for the second half.
Asked how concerned he was about Embiid’s calf injury, coach Doc Rivers responded: “Not much, not at all really.”
“I think he’ll be ready for the next game,” he continued. “It’s just precaution.”
The 29-year-old Embiid said he first felt the calf tightness during Monday night’s double-overtime loss to the Bulls. Then he felt it again in the first half Wednesday in Chicago.
The 7-foot center, one of the front-runners for league MVP, didn’t sound too concerned.
“Like I always say, it’s all about the playoffs, trying to make sure we get there healthy,” he said. “We’re just going to see how it goes the next few days.”
The Sixers (49-23) pulled within a half-game of idle Boston for second in the Eastern Conference behind Milwaukee (52-20).
Philadelphia had won eight in a row before Monday night’s loss to Chicago. But the 76ers jumped all over the Bulls in the rematch, opening a four-game road trip with an efficient offensive performance.
Playing without Harden because of left Achilles tendon soreness, the Sixers started the game with a 23-1 run. They shot 48% from the field on the night and had five players score in double figures.
“We just made simple plays,” Rivers said. “We passed to the open guy.”
Bulls star DeMar DeRozan departed in the third quarter with a right quad strain. DeRozan, who scored 25 points in the prior game, had a season-low four points on 0-for-7 shooting.
“I think he’s feeling OK. It’s just something that kind of comes and goes,” Bulls center Nikola Vucevic said. “He didn’t want to force it too much.”
Coby White scored 19 points for Chicago, and Zach LaVine had 16.
The Bulls (34-38) had won five of six in one of their best stretches in a largely disappointing season. They remain in 10th in the East, holding onto the last spot for the conference’s play-in tournament.
“We didn’t make shots early on, and before you know it, it’s 23-1,” LaVine said. “Against a team like that, against that deficit, it’s going to be tough to crawl back out.”
After the shaky start, Chicago closed within 36-26 on White’s 3-pointer early in the second quarter. But Philadelphia pulled away again before halftime.
Maxey, Harris and Melton each hit a 3 to help the Sixers to a 76-48 lead at the break. Philadelphia shot 62% (26 for 42) from the field in the first half, including 12 for 22 from 3-point range.
“I thought we made the right plays,” Embiid said. “Guys made shots, and it’s fun playing that way, when the ball moves and finds the right guys, and guys step up and then make shots.”
Sixers: F Jalen McDaniels was ruled out because of right hip soreness. … F P.J. Tucker got the start after he was listed as questionable with left ankle soreness. He finished with five points and three rebounds.
Bulls: G Alex Caruso (left mid-foot soreness) was expected to play, but he rested after he experienced some discomfort in warmups. The team said the move was made out of an abundance of caution ahead of its three-game trip.
Sixers: At Golden State on Friday night.
Bulls: At Portland on Friday night.
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