Rather, the absence of a MVP.
The Sixers, who were outclassed, out-hustled, and outplayed in Game 1 of their first round match-up with the Bulls, looked like a team destined for postseason greatness in Game 2.
The Sixers stunned the United Center crowd last night as they thrashed Chicago, 109-92.
Yes, the Bulls were without Derrick Rose, their reigning MVP, who is out for the year. Yes, the Sixers took full advantage of it. However, this victory was just as much about a stellar effort from the Sixers as it was a post-traumatic Bulls team, who seemed to be in a comma-like funk during the second half.
After all, the Bulls have been very successful this year without Rose’s services and have already beaten the Sixers this year without him. Even on Tuesday night; the Bulls took a 8 point lead into the locker room at halftime.
This victory was not about beating up on the wounded, as much is it was about maximizing the success that earned the Sixers a playoff spot in the first place.
It was a suffocating 3rd quarter, where the Sixers outscored Chicago, 36-14 that led to the win. It was rebounding and outstanding transition offense that fueled the victorious fire.
It was Jrue Holiday, who was dreadful in Game 1, that kept the Sixers alive in the first half, and helped them to pull away in the 2nd half.
Holiday had a game high 26 points, 6 assists, and no turnovers. In Game 1, Holiday shot 7 for 18 from the field, had 3 turnovers, and just seemed to make all the wrong decisions at the worst possible moment. Yet, on Tuesday night, he did everything right.
His jumper was in rhythm and overall he seemed cool, calm and collected. His first two buckets in the 3rd quarter put the Sixers within 3 of the Bulls. Though, it’s highly probable that not having to worry about Rose had something to do with his change in confidence, resulting in better play.
But, it also could be the insertion of Evan Turner back into the starting lineup. In assertive, but obvious move by Doug Collins, Turner helped to take the pressure off of Holiday. Turner, who is a natural with the ball in his possession helped to create opportunities for himself and, of course, for Holiday.
Turner had 19 points in fearless fashion. Turner continues to penetrate against the Bulls bigs in this series, and he’s done it with full confidence. Though, it was his step back jumper that capped a 10-0 run in the 3rd, that gave the Sixers a 66-61 lead.
From that point on, it was all Philadelphia. The Sixers completely zapped the life of the home crowd, as the madhouse became the “sadhouse on Madison.”
The 2nd half became a Sixers’ dunk party as with every missed Bulls’ shot or turnover, there was a Philly easy lay in or jam on the other end. The Bulls missed 11 straight shots to end the 3rd Quarter and to start the 4th. That’s when the game got out of hand.
Of course, Andre Iguodala did his part with his usual aerial assault on the rim.
Lou Williams also enjoyed the Sixers run and gun show. He had 20 points. 15 of them came during the 2nd half domination.
Yet, if there is one moment that stands out above the rest, it’s one that has nothing to do with the outcome of Game 2. The Sixers, who at one point led by 24, were up 102-82 late in the 4th. Elton Brand dove on the hardwood to battle for a loose ball, resulting in a jump ball.
He dove for a loose ball in the midst of blowout!!!
That was a move of a veteran who wants to win and was a perfect example for a young Sixers’ team to learn from.
Though, it wasn’t all peaches and cream for the Sixers.
They had no answer for Joakim Noah in the 1st half. They did a better job on the lanky Bulls big in the second half, bu he still finished with 21 points on 10-11 shooting. This won’t be the last of Noah in this series, and it is a major problem. Noah dominated the paint and was deadly when he chances to shoot the midrange jumper.
Once again, Spencer Hawes was futile, as he only had had 2 points with 3 rebounds.
On the other hand, Lavoy Allen had a nice game with 11 points with 9 boards.
The Sixers now have 2 days to rest before they play in front of the Wells Fargo Center crowd, who surely now believe this team can win the series.
It’s a belief that Sixers can get out of the first round for the first time since the days of Allen Iverson, who like Derrick Rose, was their MVP and catalyst.
The series is tied at 1, and from here on out, let the battle of the role players commence.