Sixers Beat Bulls In Game 3, 79-74
You thought a 17-point rout was a dagger? This was a guillotine.
You thought the Bulls gassed after Game 2? They got the chamber in Game 3.
In all the ways that the SIxers' Tuesday triumph was frustrating, deflating and series-changing, their 79-74 Friday win knocked Chicago from the rocker, tore a hole in their side and turned these Eastern Conference Quarters -- and everybody watching -- on their heads.
For the Sixers play like that, and win? These Bulls can't help but lose.
To let slip that stinker of a first half, shooting just 35.9 percent from the floor? Just 10 percent (1-for-10) from distance? Crashing the glass (19 boards, 5 offensive) like a cordial knock in a gated community? And to hit the locker room up 40-39?
Like doing pull-ups on the Bulls septum piercing.
To trip into a coma in the third (outscored 21-11)? To let the Bulls skate to a 14-point lead? To crawl down the floor for just 10 fast-break points? And still eke out a two-games-to-one series edge?
Like a kick to the teeth of Chicago's psyche.
How, exactly, are these Bulls to bounce back? How, might I ask, are they to regroup?
Really. What do you say to gloss over a loss like this?
You can't tuck yourselves in bed thinking that Luol Deng's going to snap out of it. Yeah, he was a ghost in Game 2. By the end of Game 3, he had a name. And, it gives the Sixers great pleasure to tell you, Casper scored five points on 2-of-7 shooting, 1-of-3 from distance.
As for the actual, tangible production from two Bull bigs (as opposed to one), no, it doesn't go down like a glass of warm milk. Where Joakim Noah (12 points, 4-7 shooting) stood alone Tuesday, he had company Friday in Carlos Boozer (18 points on 9-of-17 shooting), and that they gave it all they could and couldn't make a difference made them -- and the rest of the team -- miserable. It had to.
Maybe you could go with "Nowhere Left But Up" solace, and figure that the Bulls aren't likely to shoot 37.3 percent from the floor (28.6 percent on 3s) and 60.9 percent from the line (14-23, 0-4 in the fourth quarter) again. But that's gonna fall flat, once the Sixers rise up and elevate their games themselves.
No disrespect, but there's no way you can call that the Sixers best. Yeah, Spencer Hawes punched a 21-point time sheet. (With very large thanks to a nasty, gut-turning ankle-to-court roll that knocked out Noah in the third.) Holiday posted 17 (on 5-of-10 shooting), Turner 16 (on 5-of-12 shooting). And, with 33 free-throw attempts (26 makes), they got to the charity stripe like there really was someone from the Salvation Army making hand-outs. (Which, I guess, there was, in honorary members Boozer and Omer Asik, who had five fouls apiece.)
But to finish just 7 percent on 3s (1-for-14? Get smoked on the boards (49-to-43)? Stagnate in the paint (28 points)? Basically play out the plot of their Bizzaro Game 2? Shouldn't have been enough.
And, save for some luck from Jrue Holiday (he stumbled after an offensive board with 49 seconds left and his team up, 74-71, and crumbled under the pressure right after -- he shouldn't kicked that ball out, no doubt -- but made it to the line and knocked down one of his three-of-four free throws in the final minute) and a bit of gamesmanship from Evan Turner (he knocked down four-of-four within the last minute, 23 seconds, which, yeah, is categorically crazy to expect from a 23-year-old second-year player), it wouldn't have been. If not for a Olympic discus throw of the Mo' by Spencer Hawes with two minutes, 11 seconds left, when Philly took a 72-71 lead they wouldn't give back, they probably lose.
Funny thing, they'd still have won.
Maybe not under the enormity of the moment.
But in the intimacy of Chicago's film sessions between then and Sunday's Game 4? Then would the W set, and sink in the Bulls' stomachs like cement.
"They played THAT bad, and only lost by (marginal margin)?!?"
Forget Hunger Games. (Though, there was no shortage of spunk out of these Sixers, either.) These was Mind Games. And the Sixers have the Bulls brains in the palms of their hands after this one.
And, oh by the way, the win.
Doesn't get better than that.
(This article was written by Matt Hammond, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org)