CHICAGO - Brett Brown said before and after Sunday night's 121-108 loss to the Bulls that the Sixers have a long way to go before they are where he wants them to be.
They showed why a couple of times between those matching statements.
The Sixers fell into a 20-point hole early in the second quarter and, once it battled back, got almost no help from its bench as they dropped their second straight (see Instant Replay). It was also the Sixers' 12th straight loss to the Bulls.
The Sixers' reserves were outscored, 49-15, and watched several players come off Chicago's bench to make key contributions.
"It's just one game," said Dario Saric, who led the bench with six points. "We didn't show our ability."
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While the Sixers struggled with their starters on the bench, Chicago saw Doug McDermott (14 points), Paul Zipser and Nikola Mirotic (13 each) and Rajon Rondo (10 assists) help it run away once the Sixers (17-29) erased the early deficit.
Brown thought his team was in trouble once it clawed back to tie the game at 79 and 81 points midway through the third.
"I thought we were really good and then we tied it at 81," Brown said. "That's where our breakdowns started.
"Credit (Dwyane) Wade for his causing some of those with his scoring and defense."
The Bulls put the game away with an 11-2 spurt with less than five minutes to play. Wade made two clutch shots during that run to help the struggling Bulls, who had lost two straight and spent most of last week mired in off-the-court finger-pointing and sniping between players.
The Sixers have no such concern right now, save the condition of center Jahlil Okafor, who sat as a coach's decision for the second straight night and missed his fourth straight game.
Okafor, who has missed time because of soreness in his right knee, is questionable for Monday's matchup with Sacramento at the Wells Fargo Center.
"There was some soreness, but by and large he hasn't done much," Brown said. "We haven't had the opportunity to practice because of the schedule we're on (five games in seven days, including two back-to-back trips).
"When we reload with Jahlil we want him to be seen as he should be seen. Because of our schedule, that just hasn't happened."
Rookie center Joel Embiid also will be a game-time decision Monday night. The Sixers kept him home, as planned, Sunday, but said before the game Embiid had received treatment on the sore left knee that kept him out of a pair of games last week.
Brown said the club expects to learn more about his status when it returns to Philadelphia.
Sunday's loss wasn't entirely gloomy, as Ersan Ilyasova shook off a lackluster game against Houston to nearly match his career scoring mark.
Ilyasova, who had just four points in Friday's loss, rebounded with 31 on 11 for 19 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds, as Brown kept him on the floor for 31 minutes.
"We had our run and almost came back but I missed a wide-open three (in the fourth)," he said. "We tried to give them a fight. Overall, we did well besides the 20-point hole."
Ilyasova said he dinged his shoulder in contact with Chicago's Robin Lopez in the fourth quarter but expects to play Monday.
Chicago's Jimmy Butler, one of the veterans at the center of the Bulls' off-court turmoil, had 28 points to lead the hosts, who also got 21 and 10 from Lopez, who was an early force as the Sixers adjusted to a night without Embiid and Okafor.
Robert Covington, whose three three-pointers in the second quarter helped the Sixers erase the early deficit, finished with 21 points and matched his season-best 12 rebounds.
Nik Stauskas had 15 points and T.J. McConnell added 14 and 12 assists for the Sixers, who tip-off at 6 p.m. Monday in a game to make up a Dec. 1 postponement.