What did last night's 109-92 victory at Chicago mean? That's the question Sixers fans are left asking themselves this morning.
Does it mean they have a shot in the series? Most likely, yes. The Sixers stole game 2, and the homecourt advantage that comes with it, in convincing fashion. I expect the Bulls defense, especially in transition, to be improved over what we saw last night, but they're clearly a different team without Derrick Rose, both from an emotional and talent standpoint.
What does Iguodala's Achilles injury mean for the Sixers going forward? He played through it, and has been playing through dings all year, but it was slightly concerning and will be something to watch going forward.
Would winning this series add meaning to the Sixers season? Would it make them relevant in the big picture of the NBA? Would it be a good barometer of progress? I think you probably know the way most of us around here feel, but we'll deal with that if and when it happens. Today is a happy day, because last night was progress.
Last night's third quarter was brilliant to watch. The defensive rotations were crisp, the defensive rebounding was good, turnovers were forced and the break was executed to perfection. The alley-oop to Lou the team went from defensive rebound to slam dunk in one dribble. It was the kind of thing that's tough to execute outside of practice.
The Sixers used that 36-14 third quarter surge to push an 8 point half-time deficit into a win going away.
The Bulls were led by first half surges from Joakim Noah and John Lucas III which ultimately proved to be unsustainable. Noah shot 7-7 from the floor for his 14 first half points, with Lucas scoring 11 of his 15 before the break.
For the night, the Sixers did a tremendous job trailing Richard Hamilton and Kyle Korver. Hamilton, primarily (but not exclusively, was trailed by Jrue Holiday through screens after screen, scoring only 10 points on 4-10 shooting after scoring 19 points on 7 shots the game before. Korver scored only 7 points in his nearly 24 minutes from the floor.
The Sixers outscored the Bulls 52-32 in the paint and 25-8 in fast break points. The Sixers shot 18-25 at the rim. The Sixers made more than 18 shots at the rim only 5 times during the entire season. If you drew up a blueprint for the Sixers success, this win followed it.
But what did this mean win? Even more than winning a game in the playoffs series, and realistically even more than winning the playoff series, this game was relevant because of how they won. More specifically, who they won on the backs of. Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner dominated this game, on both ends of the court.
Jrue Holiday came out on absolute fire, scoring 17 first half points en route to his 26 points (11-15 from the field), 6 assists, and 0 turnovers. He affected the game in every way you want your point guard to, from suffocating defense on Richard Hamilton, to setting his teammates up, and carrying the scoring load early.
But even more important, Jrue Holiday had one of his best games as a professional in the same game where Evan Turner had one of his best games as a professional. Turner scored 19 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 6 assists as he took over a close game in the third quarter.
The 45 points Turner and Holiday combined to score is the second highest mark the two have combined for in the two years they've played together, trailing only the 48 they scored December 29th, 2010 against the Phoenix Suns. This time, they did it in a playoff game, against a still legitimately great defense.
The fact that both of these players excelled on the same night, both having opportunity to create with the ball, and both able to get to their spots, is what makes this win relevant.
(We should have been witnessing games like this all year, but I digress. This is a happy day).
Enjoy this one, Sixers fans. For this club hasn't experienced a truly significant playoff victory in some time.
See you at the Wells Fargo Center Friday night.