The Chicago Bulls defeated the 76ers 114-107 in a game that was much closer than it could have ever been expected of it. Derrick Rose converted several isolation plays late in the game to ultimate give the Bulls the edge in this game and keep them tied with the Toronto Raptors in the playoff race.
If it weren't for my name popping up on the game thread schedule, this might have been a "skip" game, despite only two remaining after tonight. The Sixers announced prior to the game that Ish Smith, Nerlens Noel, and Luc Mbah a Moute were all going to sit out with injuries. Isaiah Canaan was announced as out for the year already. Without franchise center or any point guards against a good team finally getting healthy, the Sixers appeared headed for a blowout.
The Bulls knew that, too, and they didn't play with an edge, giving the upstart Sixers a chance. Given that chance, the Sixers scored well. If the Sixers hit a couple more open threes, they could have easily won. Robert Covington finished with 22 points but only one three pointer - on nine attempts - and I'd say about half of his misses were open shots. Jerami Grant missed five open threes himself.
Maybe it was a bad shooting night, or maybe it was having to create open threes rather than catching-and-shooting which threw them off. With Smith or Canaan, JaKarr Sampson and Hollis Thompson took on point guard duties. And aside from the times where Thompson appeared to forget how dribbling worked, or if he could do it at all, they did an admirable job. Sampson finished with a career-high 18 points and four assists with just two turnovers, while Thompson scored 15 second-half points.
They only combined for six assists, though, as the offense was more committee-based, and a clear effort to push the pace and shoot when open was made. The Sixers attempted a high-variance strategy whether accidental or intentional, with 41 three point attempts. If the Bulls even game them the appearance of an opening, they shot. It's smart, too, when you don't have a roster that can capably attack the paint and the defense. Though JaKarr was very successful in scoring when he did so himself.
(Disappointing in all this: Furkan Aldemir did not attempt a three.)
In the end, the 32% three point shooting was not enough. Rose finished them off, but Pau Gasol was the crux of Chicago's offense which kept the team afloat. He finished with 24 points.
1. This week was Nerlens Week on the blog, As mentioned, he sat out. One of his chief competitors, Nikola Mirotic, saw only 15 minutes of action and appeared marginalized while surrounded by the rest of the healthy Chicago bigs core. It's going to be the reason he ultimately does not win the award - because Tom Thibodeau does not realize how important he is to the team.
2. Glenn Robinson III played approximately 1/8th of his minutes on the season in the game, finishing with a career-high 10 points.
3. Let's talk more about the pace of this game. The Sixers made a clear, concerted effort to run off of makes and misses early in the game. I assume it's because the coaches wanted to avoid half-court offense, which is hard enough for the team when they actively employ a point guard. The team exceeded 100 possessions (by my basic math - they had 101). They had dropped to 7th in pace this season, down from league-leaders, with more than three fewer possessions per game for each team.
I don't know how conscious that reduction is. The Sixers tend to get out of control whenever the pace goes extreme, so a slower pace, where players have more time to go through sets and think, might ultimately be best for development. But who knows? This game
4. Jason Richardson had his best game in a while, and unfortunately, at this point of his career his only skill that can bring direct in-game value is his shooting. He hit four of his eight three point attempts and finished with 19 points.
5. Really hoping Nerlens plays on Monday in Milwaukee for the team's next game, especially with them not being able to move from the third worst lottery odds, and having a chance to win. But they need to lose on Wednesday if there's any chance at making the Heat pick worse, and I would not regret sitting anyone of value then, not even a little bit.
6. Brett Brown's awesome. Just want to say that again. I'd definitely consider a contract extension, as his expires at the end of 2017.