After Kirk Hinrich drained a three pointer with 9:44 left in the 4th quarter, putting the Bulls up by 14, the game seemed to be in control.
But the Sixers, as they have consistently done when placed in these situations, fought back. They used an improbable 15-0 run over the next 3-plus minutes to take a 1 point lead, setting up an unexpectedly exciting finish.
The run was fueled by a barrage of three pointers from the Sixers, with Ish Smith, Isaiah Canaan, and Hollis Thompson all connecting from deep.
The Sixers were able to build up a 3 point lead with 43 seconds left, but an Aaron Brooks three pointer on the next possession tied it up.
The Sixers then had a chance to end the game in regulation, but a midrange jump shot from Luc Mbah a Moute, who shot only 1-10 on the night, clanged off the side of the rim as time expired.
After the game, Brown said that was the situation he wanted coming out of the timeout.
"No doubt. He's wide open," Brown said about the shot. "He had struggled in the game, but I thought that there was enough time with 8 seconds left where Luc [Mbah a Moute] could look to shoot it, or kick it over to the corner, where we put Isaiah [Canaan] on his same side.
"I would back him shooting that midrange shot to win a game 10 times out of 10," Brown finished.
Once in overtime the Sixers offense sputtered, scoring only 3 points in the extra frame. It was the second time in the game the Sixers offense went through a serious dry spell, as the Sixers went more than 7 minutes to start the 3rd quarter without a point. Those two stretches, where the Sixers scored a combined 3 points in a quarters worth of play, ultimately did the Sixers in.
"I thought we were terminal with our decisions on offense [to start the 3rd]. The start of the 3rd period there were a lot of quick shots. I didn't think the ball changed sides," Brown said after the game.
In overtime, Brown didn't think the problem had to do with ball movement, but energy.
"I think that we just had no lift. We had no spirit in the start of overtime," Brown said. "I felt like we needed a little bit more oomph and to continue on with our pace, and we didn't do that."
On the night, the Sixers finished 11-41 from three point range. The 41 three pointers is the most that the Sixers have attempted in a game during Brett Brown's tenure.
For the Sixers, it represents a continued shift in offensive philosophy, spurred on by a change in personnel, both as a direct result of the Michael Carter-Williams trade, but also as a result of Jason Richardson and Hollis Thompson returning to the lineup. After the trade deadline the Sixers have attempted 30.6 three point attempts per game, the third most in the league, and over 6 more per night than they attempted before the deadline.
|Sixers pre/post deadline splits|
|Time||3pta/g||3pt%||% of FGA as 3pta|
|Pre-Deadline||24.1 (11th)||31% (29th)||30% (10th)|
|Post-Deadline||30.6 (3rd)||35.3% (12th)||35.6% (3rd)|
After the game, Sixers head coach Brett Brown was asked whether 41 attempts from deep was a number that he was comfortable with.
"If you look at it, we had 46 points in the paint attacking the Chicago Bulls. A lot of our 3's came because we did that. We drove and we kicked out," Brown said. "On first glance, you'd say that's a very large number. It's a big number. [But] I don't think that's where the game was lost."
Where a strong case could be made that the game was lost, however, was at the foul line. The Sixers shot just 12-25 from the line against the Bulls, including 0-4 from Nerlens Noel, who had been shooting better from the charity stripe of late.
"I think, starting with myself, we have to hit our free throws," Noel said. "We went 12-25, and I didn't hit a free throw. The effort was there, we just have to do the little things."
Offensively, the Sixers were led by their diminutive backcourt, with Ish Smith, who started at point for the Sixers, contributing 23 points and 6 assists, and Isaiah Canaan, returning from an upper respiratory infection, scoring 20 points off the bench. Smith shot 9-21 from the field and 3-7 from three point range, with Canaan connecting on 7 of his 15 attempts, and 4-8 from three.
For Smith, it was his career high in points (23, previous high was 19), field goal attempts (21, previous: 16), three point attempts (7, previous: 4), and three pointers made. A career 24.2% three point shooter, Smith is now shooting 35.3% (6-17) during his short stint with the Sixers.
Most impressive for Smith has been his ability to keep his turnovers in check. Smith finished the night with 6 assists to only 1 turnover. He has 29 assists to only 6 turnovers over his past 5 games.
Defensively, Nerlens Noel was once again the star, finishing with 8 points, 15 rebounds, 4 steals, and 2 blocked shots. Over the last 2 games, Noel has totaled 32 rebounds and 9 steals. He has finished with double digit rebounds in 6 of his past 7 games, and has at least 4 steals in 4 consecutive games.
Noel is only the third player in the last 5 years to have 4+ steals in 4 consecutive games, joining Rudy Gay and Corey Brewer. Nobody has done so in 5 consecutive games since Baron Davis did it 7 consecutive times back in 2003. No player 6'10" or taller has had 4 or more steals in 4 consecutive games since Hakeem Olajuwon did so in 1988. No big man, dating back to the 1985-86 season, the furthest back you can go in basketball-reference's streak finder, has ever accomplished the feat in 5 consecutive games.
Alvin Robertson holds the record by having done it 11 times in a row.
Since the All-Star break, Noel is averaging 11.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 2.8 steals per game. He ranks 11th in rebounds per game, 4th in blocks per game, and 2nd in steals per game during that time. For rookies, he ranks 1st in rebounds, 1st in steals, and 1st in blocks since the break.
|Nerlens Noel Since the ASB|
|Category||Per Game||NBA Rank||Rookie Rank|
His stats during 6 games in March are even crazier, averaging 10.7 pionts, 12.5 rebounds, 3.7 steals and 2.0 blocks per game. The 3.7 steals per game leads the NBA in March.
For the Sixers, last night against the Bulls (who played without Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah) was the start of a string of winnable games. It was their 3rd straight game at home, in the middle of a stretch where 7 out of 8 games are at the Wells Fargo Center. Their next 8 games are against the Sacramento Kings, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Kings (again), and Denver Nuggets.
The Sixers will host the Kings Friday at the Wells Fargo Center.