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Gotta Take the Power Back: Sixers Blow Out Bulls in Game Two

May 1, 2012, 11:06 PM EDT

The Philadelphia 76ers may have changed the outlook of their first-round playoff series by beating the Chicago Bulls in Game Two, 109-92.

Wowza. We knew it was going to be easier for the Philadelphia 76ers in
Game Two of their first round series against the Chicago Bulls with
their MVP point guard Derrick Rose now firmly bench-ridden for the
remainder of the post-season, but I don’t think even the most optimistic
of Sixers fans could have seen this one coming. (Well, maybe the most optimistic—the kind who think Lou Williams should be an MVP candidate—but not the sane ones.)
The Liberty Ballers trailed for most of the first half, in a game whose
flow was very reminiscent of Game One, but rather than separate in the
third quarter, the Bulls fell victim to a Sixers surge the likes of
which we haven’t seen (against a good team, anyway) in months, as Philly
outscored Chicago 36-14 and never looked back. Final Score: Philly 109,
Chicago 92.

It’s hard to overstate just how incredible that third quarter was for
the Sixers. You might have heard Kevin Harlan read off the staggering
statistics—the Ballers shot nearly 70% from the field, didn’t turn the
ball over, and held Chicago to about 25% shooting, As the Sixers made a
couple shots, you could feel their energy on both sides of the court
picking up, until they were out-hustling Chicago in every which way,
clamping down on them on defense and running them off the floor on
offense, including a couple nice Andre Iguodala dunks in transition (and
a nice one for our Sour Patch—fine, we’ll call him Sweet tonight—Lou
Williams as well). It was a third quarter straight out of January, when
this team would pick up lesser opponents after the break and leave ‘em
breathless and reeling by the final 12. It was be-yew-tee-full.

It was especially impressive considering things were looking far from up
for the Sixers at the end of the second quarter. The Bulls went on a
run for about two or three minutes when it seemed they couldn’t miss,
while the Sixers were committing dumb turnovers and missing gimme layups
that seemed to feed Chicago’s momentum at the United Center. (Scottie
Pippen certainly seemed excited, anyway.) The Sixers were down eight at
the break, but hit a couple shots early in the third to quickly cut that
lead to three, and took off from there. They showed a fight we simply
haven’t seen from this team after All-Star Weekend, and boy was it a
sight for sore eyes.

Jrue Holiday probably gets the lion’s share of the credit, having kept
the team afloat in with his first-half scoring, ending with 26 points on
impressive 11-15 shooting, including going 3-3 from downtown. Lavoy
Allen added some nice energy off the bench—where he really belongs in
his rookie year—ending with 11 points and nine rebounds, seemingly
buoyed by the Sixers’ positive-for-once energy. And Lou Williams made
sure that the Sixers didn’t pull a Memphis Grizzlies in the fourth
quarter, scoring 13 in the final frame to end up with 20 points—on 8-13
shooting, with six dimes and no turnovers. Pretty impressive showing
from our one-time Sixth Man of the Year candidate.

But you guys know who I wanna talk about. Evan Turner, the Sixers’ wild
card, was given the first post-season start of his career after his fine
effort on Saturday, and he rewarded Coach Collins with one of his best
all-around games of the season. 19 points (on 8-15 shooting), seven
rebounds, six assists and just three turnovers as the team’s primary
ball-handler—the Villain was chillin’ tonight, serving as that
do-everything anchor we thought we were drafting with the #2 pick in the
draft two summers ago. It was Turner’s 11 points in the third that
really set the team hurtling skyward, and even when he was missing
shots, he was making things happen—at least a couple of his misses were
rebounded for easy putbacks by the team’s bigs. To have him and Holiday
have big games in the same playoff game—something doubters said might
not ever happen—is just immeasurably huge for the future outlook of this
franchise.

So it’s all good then, right? The Sixers take care of business at home
this weekend, win one more in Chicago or back at the WFC, and head to
the second round for the first time in eight years? Well, not like you
really expect that, but not so fast, Rodriguez. As great as this game
was, there’s no reason to think that the absence of Derrick Rose is
going to give the Sixers such a clear path to three more victories
before series’ end. Jrue isn’t going to go 11-15 again, our bench
probably won’t go 16-27, and Turner is probably going to have a rough
game or two before all is said and done. The Bulls are a better team
than this, and though they seem to have gotten dispirited tonight,
nothing about their history suggests that they’re going to fold at this
adversity, and I doubt that Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng—likely their two
best offensive players in Rose’s absence—will combine for just 17
points on 7-22 shooting again, either.

The win tonight is especially interesting, because the Sixers’ primary
disadvantage—the big men—did turn out pretty much as expected for the
Bulls. Moved into the starting lineup, Spencer Hawes absolutely abysmal,
scoring just two points with three rebounds in 18 minutes, and so
incensing Coach Collins with a dumb foul in the second quarter that
Collins nearly dragged him off the court and onto the bench. Meanwhile,
Bulls center Joakim Noah showed a bizarrely feathery touch all night,
ending with 21 points (on 10-11 shooting!), eight boards and five dimes.
However, the other Chicago bigs failed to really engage—I already
mentioned Boozer’s line, while Taj Gibson had just eight points and five
boards and Omer Asik was a total non-factor. Most importantly, no one
took the offensive reins for the Bulls, and when the Sixers went on
their run, there was no first-option scorer do give the ball to and just
say “make something happen.” Can’t say we don’t sympathize, Chicago.

Game three is Friday in Philadelphia, an 8:00 tip from the WFC. I still
think Chicago has to be considered the favorite in the series, but don’t
be surprised if you hear infinity percent more NBA types talking “Hey,
can the Sixers actually…?” than there were 24 hours ago—and after a
showing like this from our Ballers, you certainly can’t blame ‘em. “Can
you guys bottle this up and take it back to Philly?” Cheryl Miller asked
Jrue Holiday after the game. “You already know,” was his Ballerific
response. Can’t wait for Friday. Sing it with us now: ONE TWO, THREE FOUR FIVE, SIXERS!!