Game One of the series between the Sixers and Chicago Bulls was exactly as expected. Chicago attacks inside, outrebounds the Sixers, and forces them to take long jumpers. Doug Collins goes small and gets extremely limited production from his three bigs. With the exception of the scary Derrick Rose knee popping injury at the end, this game was preordained.
The hopes that the Sixers would start strong were dashed almost immediately, as the Bulls would rattle of 10 straight after a Jrue Holiday three, the only one the Sixers hit all game. Collins called a timeout and the guys settled in a bit, but there was no question that, from tip-off, Chicago was the much better team. People worried about Rose's health prior to the game were soothed early on also when he attacked the basket with his normal quickness and agility. Despite not shooting the ball well (1-5 to start and 9-23 on the game) he drew double teams, got his teammates involved, and worked the Sixers defense for 37 minutes. Until he went down with a knee injury that forced him to be assisted off the court, Rose played like his typical MVP self.
Richard Hamilton was one the more devastating opponents tonight, first running Jodie Meeks around everywhere then Louis Williams and later, Evan Turner. Rip finished with 19 points on 7 shots. He certainly set the tone early on that if the Sixers were going to double off him to help down low or on Rose, he was going to burn them. And he certainly did.
In other news, the Sixers are small up front. Scintillating. After Collins opted to start Lavoy Allen over incumbent rookie Nikola Vucevic and waste of 84 inches Spencer Hawes, he'd tinker with awkward rotations all game long. Vuce played exactly zero minutes, Lavoy had 20, and Hawes 15. That means a good chunk of the game was played with Elton Brand and Thaddeus Young as the 4/5. Tough to win games against Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, and Omer Asik with that frontcourt. Thad, with his DREB% of 12, pulled in just 3 defensive rebounds in 25 minutes. They didn't do a terrible job on the boards all things considered, but it certainly hurt the cause.
More observations on the Game One loss after the jump.
- Evan Turner, I thought, played a fantastic game. He didn't ever really *take over* but he played within himself for most of the day, found open teammates for good looks (5 assists), and did an okay job on defense of Rose, Luol Deng, and others. We'll do some Synergy research later, but it seemed like the Bulls didn't test him much on defense. He looked supremely confident in his jumper, embraced how the Chicago crowd was vilifying him with boos, and just seemed very comfortable out there. As Derek pointed out, there were a few lazy passes down the stretch so far from a perfect game, but 12 points on 9 shots with 5 dimes, 3 active hands steals, and 3 boards is a nice game from the kid. He didn't come down with too many defensive boards, but then again, the Bulls didn't miss that many shots.
- The reason the Sixers were even this close was Elton Brand. He was revving up the Old School Chevy in this one, hitting a bevy of midrange jumpers and even a few rumbles to the basket for dunks. He blocked four (four!) shots serving as de facto center in the small lineup and anchored both the offense and the defense. Really nice game from EB.
- The mystery of Andre Iguodala's shot selection continues. He was Bad Dre today, taking off-balance fadeaways and off-the-dribble long two's throughout, finishing with a 3-11 line that almost certainly all came off transition dunks. His defense wasn't stellar but he led the team out in transition a bunch of times and could have benefited with a few extra whistles. He was 5-6 from the line though, so that's certainly a silver lining.
- Spencer Hawes' line of 5 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists in 15 minutes doesn't look awful, but God is he bad. He missed two absolute BUNNIES at the rim and, save for a few typical passes from the top of the key, really contributed nothing on either end. Collins has no faith in him whatsoever.
- Speaking of missed layups, Jrue Holiday had a few of his own on the way to a 16 points on 18 shots kind of day. Not excellent. The team as a whole (per CBS) was 11-27 on layup attempts. LAYUPS. Those are typically the ones you take from close range. It's usually easier to make them. Evidently not.
- Jrue did a nice job on Rose, forcing him to take jumpers and off-balance shots at the rim for the most part. He's going to finish a lot of difficult shots but the more times you don't give him an easy road to the cup, the more likely it is he won't kill you. Holiday strayed a bit too far on some double teams which led to what felt like a thousand dagger three's from the MVP. He also forced 5 turnovers. Far from Jrue's best game, but the -25 +/- he was saddled with goes to show how mostly negligible of a statistic it is.
- Speaking of +/-, the only player on the Sixers who was in the black was the horrendous Louis Williams. The Bulls were conscious of Lou every second he was on the court, and didn't let him get free, but his typically terrible shot selection led to a 1-6 affair. He did get to the line 8 times, which is the only thing he does consistently well. His defense, as you'd expect, was laughable. Collins at one point subbed him in for Meeks, who was having a really tough time on Rip. I laughed. See? Laughable.
- Lavoy didn't appear too overmatched against the tough Bulls front but wasn't asked to do much. He took one off-balance long two that made me cringe so hard I broke a nail. He sprained a thumb but should still be good for the next game, where he'll likely be starting as well. Certainly won't be Vuce!
- Tony Battie didn't play. Salvation!
- They managed to get to the line 31 times in what turned out to be a really strangely officiated game. Sometimes the ref would just blow the whistle and make up a call. Brand was the benefit of a phantom and-1. Dre got called for a charge when Kyle Korver was still moving. Hawes got a clean block on Gibson that drew a whistle. Good to see them getting to the line, at least. Hopefully the next game is more cleanly officiated.
And that's basically it. The game went as planned. Collins went with ET over Meeks, which obviously caused a big dip in the three-point shooting and floor spacing department. The Sixers turned the ball over 11 times to the Bulls 18, but because of the three-point differential and how easily the Bulls could capitalize on soft double teams, it didn't really make a difference.
The Sixers, who at least at first were settling so hard for jumpers, made a concerted effort to get to the rim and that really did open up a lot of opportunities. But they still didn't hit the paint too consistently, as the shot chart will tell you. There's not much I could say they could do better except finish inside more effectively, try not to double team as much, and hope Chicago misses some shots. The Sixers, all in all, didn't play that terribly, they just happen to be matched up with a really good basketball team.
All is up in the air until the Derrick Rose MRI news comes back in. The real news, not the NBC Miami news. LeBron is currently curb stomping the Knicks, if that makes you feel any better. Game Two on Tuesday. We'll have so much for you before then it's not even funny. Head over to Blog a Bull for D-Rose well-wishing. Don't be stupid.