The 76ers-Bulls first round playoff match-up has not only been a painful one physically for the Chicago Bulls, it has been a torturous one for any fan of offensive basketball.
When Derrick Rose went down in Game 1, it was not only a blow to the Bulls championship chances; it was a blow to any chance of witnessing true, legitimate scoring power.
Since Game 2, when the Sixers took advantage of a deflated Bulls team, the fireworks of this series have been completely extinguished. No team has reached the 90 point mark, and quite frankly, both teams have given a dreadful exhibition of half-court offense.
Still, Game 5 reached a new dreadful low. Simply put, it was brutality to the eyes. The result was 77-69 victory for the Chicago Bulls, in the lowest scoring game of the series thus far.
The Sixers had only 48 points total through the 3rd Quarter. What was even more frightful was that they only had 26 points in the first half.
To be sure, the Bulls and their defense are to be credited, but the Sixers did plenty to provide their own atrocity.
By now, the world knows that the Sixers love to get out in the open floor. That’s how they score, and ultimately that’s how they win. The problem was, on Tuesday night, that every time that there was a transition opportunity, there was a Sixers’ mistake. There were overthrown passes when there were wide open scoring lanes or poor ball handling on easy breakouts or fumbled receptions by wide open players. It was almost as if the Sixers were forcing the issue. And in the words of Doug Collins, they played “too fast.”
But the Bulls stepped up to the plate as well. They didn’t simply allow Andre Iguodala and company to get down the court and participate in their own in-game dunk contest. They may not have stopped the fast break opportunities completely, but they didn’t give them away.
The Bulls made the Sixers earn it with free throws or they simply just stopped them cold with solid defense, including 11 blocked shots, many of which came in transition defense.
The Sixers’ set offense didn’t help the cause. In all, they only scored 2 points in the last 5:28 of the 1st half.
Taj Gibson, who didn’t have the offensive output like Carlos Boozer or Luol Deng, was a major factor in slowing down the Sixers’ attack. Specifically they used Gibson’s length and physicality to harass Jrue Holiday. Gibson had 4 blocks on the night and was just a physical force throughout the game. It was his hustle that ramped up the intensity in the UnitedCenter, that hadn’t been felt since the Rose injury.
In the 2nd quarter, Gibson battled with Elton Brand for a loose ball, where elbows were thrown, and both forwards spilled in the Bulls’ bench. A scrum ensued and the United Center was rocking. Both Gibson and Brand were given technical fouls. But, that was insignificant to the emotional lift that play gave to the Bulls and to the arena.
Even Turner, who had become a hero early in this series, was neutralized and was quite the non-factor on Tuesday night.
In all, the Sixers shot 32% from the field.
That’s what the Bulls can do defensively. They’re that good and know how to shut teams down.
Thanks to the Bulls defense and the 7-6’s poor shooting, this game was a pure eye sore, and for the Sixers, it’s oa loss that puts them in a must win situation (3-2 series lead with Gm 7 in Chicago).
Fans can only hope that Game 6 will be executed in a much smoother fashion. But whether or not, the game is prettier or more exiting, there’s only one item Collins and his young Sixers should care a damn about. Of course, that is winning.
No matter how Game 6 plays out, a loss at home, leading to a game 7 in Chicago would be very, very ugly.