Travelling on the tail end of a back to back, after an embarrassing loss to the Kings the day before, to take on the East leading Bulls at the United Center, who are had won 19 of their previous 22 games overall and 14 straight at home, who have the best defense in the league, with the leading candidate in both the MVP and coach of the year races, and fighting for home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
We probably should have seen this coming.
The Sixers have predictably bounced back with great efforts after horrible losses. And make no mistake about it, Sundays loss to the Kings was horrible. Whether it was the debacle in Washington, the loss(es) to Cleveland, or the blowout loss to Chicago earlier in the year (even though they lost their next game at Boston, it was a great effort), the Sixers come out focused and intense in their next game. They haven't lost three straight since mid-November, something they were in jeopardy of doing after losses to Miami and Sacramento.
With New York's overtime win against the Magic, the win keeps the Sixers a solid 2 games ahead of NY for 6th spot in the east and 4 games behind Atlanta for 5th, a possibility that is now all-but gone. Chicago retains a 2 game lead on the conference with Boston's loss to Indiana. With Boston's 3rd loss in 4 games they've tied the surging Heat, and it's looking more and more likely that the Celtics will be the Sixers first round opponent.
Once again, the Sixers show great resiliency and pick themselves up after a horrible defeat, a trait that's going to be needed in a playoff series. Some thoughts after the jump.
- Obviously, Thad was the player of the game. His 17 first half points propelled the Sixers, who went on a 29-16 run when he entered the game, building the lead up to 23 points in the second quarter. He was quicker than any player on the court in the first half, getting to the rim at will, while winning seemingly every battle for 50-50 balls. Once the Bulls finally realized he was left handed, he beat Gibson and Boozer with his right hand. Perhaps most surprisingly, he was swarming defensively with 4 (setting a season high and tying his career high), while chipping in 2 steals and 2 assists for good measure.
- In the first half, while I thought Jrue Holiday did a solid job on Derrick Rose, Rose still got quality looks at the basket, and a second half explosion was probably predictable. Rose was sick in the second half, hitting an assortment of runners in the lane and finishes at the rim perhaps nobody else in the league could. The turnovers (10 in the game, 4 in the first half) by Rose were obviously a big part of the win.
- In the second half when the Bulls clamped down, the Sixers really could have used Meeks three point shooting to open things up. Meeks was off all night, including the two first-half three's he made, which were anything but pure. Against the best defensive team in the league, the Bulls tightening up their defense was predictable. With Louis Williams playing poorly and a basically 7 ma rotation, the Sixers desperately needed a good shooting night out of Meeks, but found a way to win anyway. Floor spacing in the second half was not good, and the Sixers struggling to keep possession of the ball and get quality looks, but still found a way to hold on.
- Louis Williams was in rare form. Horribly inefficient offensively, taking 11 shots to score 10 points, some of them extremely bad decisions. He helped out his cause by dishing out 7 assists and getting to the line 8 times, helping the team in a game where his shot was off, a rarity for sure.
- Evan Turner didn't get much time, but he was extremely mistake prone while he was out there. A bad game from Turner on both sides of the ball, and lately he looks like he's back to his scared/confused state from earlier in the year.
- With Tony Battie out, Marreese Speights received a short, 5 minute run. There was also a short 6 minute run by Turner in there, but more or less Doug went with a 7 man rotation, with those 7 players each logging 24 minutes or more, including 39 from Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala and 40 from Elton Brand. Considering the age of Elton Brand and the injury to Andre Iguodala, the fact that they were able to play that long on a back to back and still hold on for the win was impressive. Andre Iguodala has logged just under 84 minutes in the past 2 days.
- Elton Brand struggled to his 13 points, having difficulty with the length of the Chicago front line, particularly Joakim Noah. That being said, he did a much better job on the glass and on the defensive end.
- You just got a feeling that if the game were 5 quarter longs, the Sixers were in trouble, didn't you? The Sixers were up 14 after one, 23 at one point in the second, back down to 14 at the half, 5 after three, and to within 4 in the 4th. Yet every time the Bulls made a run, the Sixers answered, whether with defensive stops, Iguodala pull-up jumpers, Iguodala put-back dunks, or Spencer Hawes long 2's. Three consecutive Spencer Hawes jump shots for the Sixers and a huge follow-up dunk by Iguodala pushed the lead to 10 to hold off a final run by the Bulls.