This is how you bury a bad home loss and open a critical, four-game trip.
This is how you answer critics, overcome injury and illness and put a foolish rookie mistake in the background.
With Luol Deng sidelined, the flu bug sweeping through the team and Joakim Noah inactive and in street clothes after challenging assistant Ron Adams' authority at the morning shootaround, the Bulls gutted out a 100-97 victory over the reeling 76ers.
Who cares if the 76ers have lost six straight and the Bulls almost let another double-digit fourth-quarter lead slip away?
When you fail to score on 13 of 14 first-quarter possessions, trail by 18 early and have the wherewithal to prevail, you exhale and do so deeply.
"Man," Ben Gordon said with a weary smile, "we needed this."
Andres Nocioni hit the side of the backboard with his wide-open first attempt from the baseline, shook off that and lingering pain in his joints from the flu to score 27 points and block two shots.
Joe Smith, taunted good-naturedly by ex-teammates when they spoiled the Bulls' home opener back in November, scored nine of his 19 in the fourth quarter.
"They're my friends, but I still want to burn them," Smith said, laughing. "We needed a little payback."
Thabo Sefolosha provided solid second-quarter minutes with long-armed defense that led to turnovers and transition points as the Bulls ripped off runs of 15-2 and 14-3 to right the ship.
In fact, the Bulls sandwiched a 23-5 run around halftime, eventually turning that 18-point deficit into a 16-point fourth-quarter lead.
"It was a wild game," interim coach Jim Boylan said.
Indeed, it featured the 34-point swing, official Eric Lewis leaving early in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury and Gordon, the league's leading free-throw shooter, having his string of 26 straight makes end in the final seconds.
Gordon, who scored 15 points, also slipped on a wet spot and cracked his right elbow on the court with 8:36 remaining. He remained in the game but had precautionary X-rays taken afterward, the results of which were not made available.
Gordon's fall led to an easy dunk for Andre Iguodala, who led the 76ers with 25 points. That basket cut the lead to 81-68, and the Bulls still led by 13 with 3:21 to play.
But the 76ers began trapping and cut the lead all the way to 97-94 before Sefolosha knocked down two free throws with 18.5 seconds left.
"We need to solve our problem of coughing up leads," Boylan said. "But our guys kept their composure early. In timeouts, we said let's not panic and chip away. It was great to see our guys respond."
Few did as effectively as Nocioni, who barely could play the last game because of the flu. He hit a key three-point shot just before the third-quarter buzzer and later scored on a driving layup with 29.2 seconds left and one second on the shot clock to keep it a two-possession game.
Boylan also called Nocioni's intensity and physical defense on Iguodala a "difference-maker" in the victory, which ran Boylan's mark to 5-3.
"Wow, I started really, really bad," Nocioni said of his side-of-the-backboard shot. "That was one of the worst shots of my life. But I picked up my game and helped my team to a win and started the trip the right way."
A local reporter asked Boylan before the game whether he believed the Bulls to be a playoff team.
Boylan's answer may not have filled much space. But it spoke volumes to his and his players' belief and confidence level.
"Yes," he said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun