The 76ers (38-36) opened up the floodgates on the Bulls early on, fought off a brewing Chicago comeback and finished Monday night’s victory with a thrilling exclamation point, winning 97-85 against the number one team in the East.
The Sixers’ defensive strategy was brilliant — forcing MVP front-runner Derrick Rose into 10 turnovers and holding the Bulls to 1-of-9 from downtown. The Bulls had just 37 points at halftime and never once had a lead in this ball game. Most bloggers are going to argue that this was the Sixers biggest win of the season — especially with the timing. The win was great recovery from the now controversial debacle on Sunday vs. Sacto and avoided the Sixers first three game losing streak since November 23-26.
Thaddeus Young literally deserves a game ball postgame ceremony in his honor. He was unstoppable in the first half going for 17 and six boards and finished with a team-high 21. Ten-for-sixteen from the floor doesn’t even closely paint an accurate picture for how flawless he was in Chicago. Thad was running the break, using his soft lefty floated and coming up with several loose balls which helped him account for seven rebounds (three offensive). Plus he managed four blocks on the defensive end. He just doesn’t get tired. His effort seemed to inspire other players like Spencer Hawes and Andre Iguodala. The Sixers miraculously were up 50-30 at one point late in the second quarter.
Not many people could have foreshadowed a win like this on the road. The 45-point shellacking in December was one of the more horrific losses committed by any NBA team this season. Under the wrong coaches (Eddie Jordan) certain teams can implode after losses like that; second guessing some of their teammates and more specifically questioning the coaching. The journey on this boat ride of a season started in the eye of a hurricane but Collins has resourcefully steered this ship full of young sailors. Being smarter, more aggressive and faster has worked against superior opponents.Philadelphia is now 3-3 against the top two teams in the eastern conference. The win ended Chicago’s 14 game home win streak.
I know the exact thing you’re thinking: How in the world did we manage to hold on to this lead? Here’s an awkward but true answer: Spencer Hawes. The Sixers center found himself pushed into the lineup late in the fourth quarter, a tinker in the roster that’s starting to seem normal. The Bulls had begun scrapping their way back, cutting the Philly lead to a slim 80-74 margin. Hawes would then go on his best spurt as a Sixer; picking Boozer’s pocket and then three gigantic, deep two pointers, eventually pushing the lead to 88-80. Those who know the Sixers well have identified that Hawes would be better equipped to play a shooting power forward role rather than under the basket. Number 00 was disrespected by Joakim Noah and the Bulls bigs when it counted the most. Hawes has now scored 10 plus points in four straight games, his longest stretch of the season.
No doubt, Thad and Spencer stuck out Monday night. Also no doubt Andre Iguodala’s 19 points, seven assists and seven boards will go overlooked by most fans. Some of you may not like it that Doug Collins has tabbed Andre Iguodala as his fourth quarter point guard over Jrue Holiday but you can’t deny its effectiveness tonight. ‘Dre scored eight points in the fourth, dished out three assists and kept Luol Deng (10 points, 3-of-11 shooting) off his game when it mattered most.
Postgame Collins even was quoted as saying “Andre should be defensive player of the year.” The resurgent defensive performance was a needed gut check for this team. I thought Collins would experiment with AI9 guarding Rose but that wasn’t needed. Prior to this Bulls contest the Sixers had allowed 11 of their last 14 opponents to reach the 100 point plateau. Last night, turnovers were probably more key then anything to holding the Bulls under the century mark. Chicago had a grand total of 17 with Rose responsible for 10 of those 17. Iguodala was all over the perimeter forcing a myriad of bad Chicago passes.
Lou Williams fade away / isolation game is starting to get out of control. 2-for-11 against the Bulls. Too many nights it takes him way to long to realize he just isn’t going to catch fire in that game. That’s 3-for-23 in back-to-back days. Coming off the Lil’ Wayne concert controversy, it wouldn’t hurt Louis’ image with the fans if he had a monster game soon. Still, it is worth noting that he matched a season-high with seven assists and weirdly sort-of sealed the deal on the defensive end with two giant steals late in the fourth, both which led to easy transition buckets. His dunk off the steal with a 1:06 left was followed by a big sigh of relief from the Philadelphia brethren. That was the exclamation point I referred to in my opening paragraph.
- Carlos Boozer’s 15 points are slightly more than the 13 his counterpart Elton Brand scored, yet the veteran Brand outplayed Boozer. He was chippy enough down low and he timed that back to the basket jumper to sync perfectly with the Sixers offensive flow. At +14, Brand led all players in minutes with the lead. Tonight was a heartening sign from Brand, who is statistically having his worst month of the season.
- In the win the 7-6 were able to expose a few weaknesses Chicago has been able to mask for most of the season. First, the guard play on this team is below average at best. No one is a reliable shooter, and that statement includes Derrick Rose. Keith Bogans, Ronnie Brewer and CJ Watson combined for just 11 points in 53 minutes. All three of those players would have trouble finding minutes in the 76ers crowded backcourt.
- Also, if Chicago falls behind by more than ten, they’re going to be in deep doo-doo come playoff time. The Bulls hit 1-of-9 three pointers tonight at home. We all know Kyle Korver’s game like the rest of the League. If he isn’t wide-open he usually will miss. I wonder how much better Chicago would be if they would’ve signed JJ Reddick or added another shooter this past offseason. I think it’ll end up being their kryptonite.
- Of course NBA.com has the highlights of the Sixers huge W in Chicago.