The Philadelphia 76ers are one game away from eliminating the free-falling Chicago Bulls after a thrilling 89-82 victory on Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Chicago cannot find a late game closer and look destined to exit these playoffs in the first round.
As we all know, the headline after Chicago’s Game 1 victory was “Derrick Rose does ACL” rather than “Chicago take 1-0 lead”. Since that time the Bulls have looked like a spider with only three legs, fumbling their way around with next to no cohesiveness whatsoever. There is a considerable lack of fluency on offense and to put it plainly, a team with Carlos Boozer as it’s “go-to guy” on offense is destined to fail.
The much-maligned Power Forward can score but is unable to carry a team and now with thanks to injuries, the Bulls are relying on Boozer and CJ Watson to take close to 50% of their shots. (No disrespect intended to CJ, he’s our guy!)
With Joakim Noah sitting out with an ankle injury suffered in Game 3, the Bulls could be forgiven for losing the rebounding battle with the Sixers. Not surprisingly however, Taj Gibson stepped up with a double-double recording 14 points and 12 rebounds to go with his four blocks. With this individual effort on the boards, the Bulls actually won the rebounding battle 48-46.
Amazingly this isn’t the only stat category the Bulls won, edging the Sixers in assists (21-16) also. The problem for Chicago was the foul count (23-18 resulting in 17 more free throws for Philly) and more prominently turnovers where the Bulls committed 14 to Philadelphia’s eight.
For Philly it was an awkwardly titled “Holiday Hawes” party as the two Sixers contributed a combined 42 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and four blocks. Awkward headlines aside, these two were running the show while only Andre Iguodala reached double-figures in points with 14. “Iggy” also contributed 12 rebounds and three steals.
Chicago got serviceable efforts from Boozer and Gibson, while CJ watson toiled away scoring 17 on 5-18 shooting. Names like Hamilton, Asik, Korver and most importantly Deng did not feature prominently when describing what Chicago did right in this game.
The Philadelphia 76ers are now completely topped up on confidence and ready to take out the number one seed in the East. Game 5 will be played at Chicago’s United Center on Tuesday US time and it can’t come quick enough for Doug Collins’ crew.
The Chicago Bulls are in complete disarray and while some can understand their plight considering the injuries, one has to wonder how these guys are struggling so hard to win games without Rose. The reigning NBA MVP sat out a significant chunk of the lockout-shortened schedule, meaning this is not akin to say, the Clippers losing Chris Paul.
The Bulls are still alive and do return to “Sweet Home Chicago” for Game 5 but without a closer, the look destined to leave this year’s playoff race in five or six games.