Last night's 79-74 comeback win was one of those rare treats for Sixers fans.
The game was incredible for the way the Sixers came back. Down 56-69 with 9:35 left, coming off a 3rd quarter that saw them score a measly 11 points on 4-21 from the field, the Sixers rallied with a 23-5 run to end the game and put them up 2 games to 1 in their first round series with the Bulls.
The atmosphere was electric, probably the best atmosphere the Wells Fargo Center has seen for a basketball game since 2001. To put in perspective how long ago that is, the area has been called the Wachovia Center and the First Union Center since that time.
With Derrick Rose out for the rest of the season and Joakim Noah likely out for game 4, if not the series, advancing to the next round is a realistic possibility, particularly if the Sixers can take care of business tomorrow afternoon in game 4.
The story of the postseason so far has been the play of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner. Holiday is averaging 19.7 points per game, to go along with 4.7 assists per game while shooting 53.5% from the field. Turner is averaging 15.7 points per game, along with 6.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists. Over his last two games, both starts after replacing game 1's starter, Jodie Meeks, Turner has averaged 17.5 points, 8 rebounds, 3.5 assists on 48.2% shooting, in over 41 minutes per game.
More encouraging than their overall play has been the fact that they've been doing it together. In the past, Turner's success has usually come in games Holiday has struggled, with the common belief that they could not co-exist together. When Turner scored 29 points, with 13 rebounds and 6 assists, Holiday scored only 6 points on 3-7 shooting. When Turner had his huge 26 point, 9 rebound game against Boston, Holiday shot 4-11. 24 points, 15 rebounds for Turner in a win over New York? 2-14 shooting for Jrue.
It's not that they've never succeeded on the same night, but it's been a rarity. For two games in a row, we've seen a glimpse of the future. The pair are #1 and #2 on the team in points and assists for the playoffs.
The most significant thing to come out of the playoffs so far this season is Doug Collins trust in the two, and in particular Evan Turner.
Turner's 37.3 minutes per game in the playoffs is tied for the most in the team. After Lou Williams, generally regarded as the offensive closer on the team, landed hard and was clearly hobbled. Turner replaced Lou Williams with 3:41 left in the game and the Sixers down 3. With the game on the line, Doug Collins called Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner's number down the stretch, and they both responded.
"The last couple of plays coach [Collins] put the ball in my hands, and I didn't want him to regret the decision," Turner said. "The biggest thing that you can show me is that you have confidence in me. I'm thankful that he did that."
Most notable was the play, with the Sixers up 1 with around 30 seconds left, Turner drove baseline, gave a nice spin, and got his shot blocked twice. Two offensive rebounds among the trees and a huge dose of effort, and Turner iced the game at the line.
"I thought it was beautiful," Collins said of the play. "I honestly believe that the single biggest play of the year for us was [that play]."
"I wanted the shot, so I took it to the rack and I didn't get it first time, but I wasn't giving [the Bulls] opportunity to decide the game," Turner described. "I just kept fighting and fighting, and got the foul."
The sometimes rocky relationship between Turner and Collins (although Collins insisted that perception is different from reality) has seemingly never been better, with the coach entrusting more playing time and responsibility to the second year player.
"Evan Turner is a big-time competitor. Big time. He is at his best in these kind of games," Collins said of Turner.
If nothing else comes out of these playoffs, Collins developing a little bit of trust in Turner and a future commitment to seeing whether the pairing of Holiday and Turner can work would qualify as a huge success.
Joakim Noah's injury
Noah's injury further depletes an already injury riddles roster, leaving the Bulls without their best defender and some offensive playmaking.
"Derrick Rose is their motor," Collins said. "I've always felt that when Noah plays great, he's sort of the soul of their team."
When Noah was injured with 6:46 left in the third, the Sixers had scored 44 points in the first 30 minutes of game time. The Sixers scored 35 points in the remaining 18.
If he can't go in game 4 -- and seeing him on crutches after the game and with the news that it could be a stress fracture, I can't believe he will -- that would put the Bulls well behind the 8 ball in their attempt to regain home court advantage from the Sixers.
Dr. J becomes strategic advisor
"Today is one of the happiest days in the Philadelphia 76ers long and proud heritage, because we welcome back as a 76er, none other than Dr. J, Julius Erving," Sixers CEO Adam announced. "[Erving] has signed to become a strategic advisor to Josh Harris our owner, to me as CEO, to Doug Collins our coach and Rod Thorn in our front office, to our players, to our organization, to our team."
When asked exactly what being a strategic advisor meant in this situation, Erving said "It means being available, obviously being knowledgable, and being able to impart that knowledge at specific times."
When asked whether or not that included player personnel decisions, Adam Aron said that was up to Rod Thorn.
"There's an informality associated with it, because I"m not looking to replace anybody who exists now," Erving said.
Erving will be working from Atlanta, where he currently resides.
Sixers injury situation
Although obviously not as severe as the Bulls injury problems, Andre Iguodala is "basically playing on one leg" according to Doug Collins, and Louis Williams had to be removed from the game late in the 4th after landing hard on a non-call. Both are expected to play in game 4.