A win tonight and the Sixers advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2003, where they’ll square off against one of a pair of teams they went 5-1 against in the regular season.
So that’s the good news. The bad is this: to get there, they still have to take a game from a prideful Bulls team that is, while profoundly depleted, formidable.
And to do that they’ll probably need the benefit of the continuation of some recent trends that don’t look entirely sustainable.
(Free throw shooting, Spencer Hawes eating people’s faces, terrible injuries to integral members of the Bulls; these things come to mind.)
But get excited Philadelphia. We certainly are.
Five and a half hours out from tip-off, here are some links to whet your appetites.
- (Insider only) John Hollinger at ESPN.com says the Bulls problems run deeper than the absences of Rose and Noah. “So basically,” he writes, “Chicago can’t score, its go-to guys have played more like go-away guys, and it has inexplicably begun fouling like the Jerry Sloan-era Jazz against a team that normally can’t find the foul line with two sherpas and a Garmin.” He adds that if the Sixers cool down on the long 2s and the Bull offense gets its bearings back, the top seed might still give the 7-6 a run for their money.
- From Tom Sunnergren over on the Truehoop proper (If you don’t link to your own stuff, who will?) we learn that Jrue Holiday might be well on his way to becoming the scoring threat the Sixers have been missing all season: “The knock on the Sixers, and it’s a loud and true one — repeated to the point of cliché — is that they lack a guy who can take over games. Philadelphia defends as well as anyone in the Association, makes hay in transition, but it has no shot-creator. Nobody who can get looks in the half-court heavy, glacial pace playoff basketball games invariably grind down to. Chicago’s season effectively ended when they lost their guy who can create in such an environment. Philly’s seems renewed now that they’ve found theirs.”
- From the department of sour grapes: Carlos Boozer complained to Nick Friedell about the (unlikely) free throw disparity between the Sixers and Bulls in Game 4. From Friedell: “It’s crazy,” Boozer said of the 31-14 disparity. “I thought we were driving. I thought Luol [Deng] was driving almost every time he got the ball. He was getting contact on a lot of his shots. I thought C.J. [Watson] was driving the ball. There was one play at the end of the game [when] he got hit right in the face. I saw the whole play and he didn’t get that call.”
- At Liberty Ballers, the guys remind us that Game 5 is, well, kind of a big deal.
- CNNSI.com’s Zach Lowe wonders aloud whether the Bulls are done with Rose done and Noah likely finished as well. He rolls up his sleeves, gets into some video, and shows us that Chicago has a ways to go.
- The Sporting News surmises that if the Sixers free throw advantage disappears and the Bulls start hitting some of the open 3-point shots they’ve been clanking, Chicago has a puncher’s chance to get back into this series.