Fresh off an exciting win against the oddly suddenly exciting Charlotte Bobcats behind exciting efforts from the suddenly exciting Evan Turner, the always exciting Jrue Holiday, and a seemingly exciting retro version of Jason Richardson, the exciting but Bynyum-less Philadelphia 76ers travel to Chicago to take on the not-as-exciting-without-Derrick-Rose Chicago Bulls in an exciting rematch of last year's exciting Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series. Exciting.
Well, it was exciting for Sixers fans anyway. Ask any Bulls fan, and they are more than likely to tell you that series was what got them into sniffing glue. The repercussions from that playoff series are still being felt in Chicago as the Bulls struggle to tread water without Derrick Rose, who is still out of action after tearing his ACL in Game 2.
The 76ers and Bulls both find themselves in odd positions heading into their first tilt of the season. The Bulls are currently at 7-7 but stand with a positive 2.2 average point differential. The Sixers meanwhile are 10-6, but carry only a positive 0.6 point differential. These could potentially come back around, making life depressing at times for Sixers fans, but while the team may be overperforming in the W-L department, Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner are using this year to make up for last year's lost time and failings, and that's most important this year.
The last time the Sixers played a back-to-back that involved a road trip between games, they played horribly in a solid defeat to the Cleveland Cavaliers without Kyrie Irving. Suffice to say that even without Rose, the Bulls are a much better basketball team than an Irving-less Cavs team. Something the Sixers did in the game preceding the Cavs loss was to give Jrue Holiday a lot of minutes the game before. Holiday played 40 minutes against the Raptors and had a rough outing one day later against the Cavs. Last night, Jrue Holiday played 38 minutes.
One thing of note is the increased playing time, production, and efficiency of Evan Turner. It cannot be said enough that although the Sixers as a collective may be over-performing their true talent level, the success/failure of this season (especially without Bynum) hinges not on the total amount of wins and losses this year, but on the development of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner, And thus far, both have been rousing successes. Evan Turner is continuing to provide hope that 25 years from now I won't be solemnly reading "Remember This Guy: Evan Turner" written by Dave Rueter, Jr. Turner's true shooting percentage has never been higher, his defensive rebounding remains in the elite category, and his overall efficiency has never been better. For the Sixers moving forward, this is so much more important than wins and losses this season.
The Chicago Bulls are coming off a 101-78 destruction of the Dallas Mavericks that was led by 22 points from Luol Deng. Kirk Hinrich has been given the bulk of the minutes at point guard for the Rose-less Bulls, and this has not gone to plan. Hinrich's 37.5 true shooting percentage is a career low and his 9.31 PER is near a career low from last year. In short, Kirk Hinrich has seen better days. One player who has stepped his game up a bit this year for Chicago is Luol Deng. His numbers have seen a resurgence from recent years, which has helped make up from some of the poorer performances around him.
To the exciting bullet points!
- Everyone fondly remembers Andre Iguodala's free throws in Game 6 against the Bulls, but Tony Battie does not get enough credit for his motivation to Iggy. And you all think that having a veteran presence on the bench is silly. It is this, not back-up PG, that may be Royal Ivey's true-calling.
- X-rays on Kwame Brown continue to be negative, which is weird because every time Kwame hits the deck, some bloke across the pond turns to a nearby mate and says, "did you feel that rumble, mate?" Man of steel, that Kwame. Man of steel.
- Come on already, can Arnett Moultrie sniff the court? Today? Please? For [fun]'s sake, he can't find playing time in a front court where Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen, and Kwame Brown are seeing meaningful minutes.
- Instead of a t-shirt gun named Big Bella, the Bulls have a beer gun named Boozer Lose. This may or may not be true.
- Turnersville has some potential to be a basketball version of Utley's Corner and that fills me with glee.
- Interested in reading Chicago Bulls news, opinion, and commentary led by a man who despises the Boston Celtics? Check out Blog a Bull!
- Never doubt the American pride of Spencer Hawes. Always doubt the basketball ability of Spencer Hawes.
- Going to a Sixers game in the near future? Sixers fan living in the Chicago area? Buy Philadelphia 76ers Tickets here! Tickets for tonight's game at United Center start as low as only $23!