Bulls-Sixers Game Five Preview

Game 4: Sixers win 89-82
Sixers lead series 3-1
Top Performers
Sixers: Spencer Hawes (22 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Jrue Holiday (20 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists)
Bulls: Carlos Boozer (23 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals) and CJ Watson (17 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists)

The Bulls-Sixers series could end in five games tonight in Chicago. A lot of people thought it would end in five, myself included. But I, like many others, thought the Bulls would be the team coming out on top. Injuries have flipped the script on the Bulls, this series and the playoffs. But Chicago still has a chance.

I thought the Bulls were going to win this series in five games, but I also didn’t think that Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah would get injured or that the basketball gods were mad at Chicago. Even after the Rose injury I thought the Bulls would have enough to get through Philly. That doesn’t seem likely now. What a turn of events this series has become.

Philly has a chance to close out the series in the United Center, in front of fans that believed their team had a shot to go all the way.

Game four was close again, but the Bulls came up short in crunch time. They don’t have a go-to scorer at the end of games, and it’s hurt them in games three and four. They aren’t going to magically have one in game five either, so the Bulls may be in the same position.

Carlos Boozer stepped up, to a degree. He was the game’s leading scorer, with 23 points. He went just 11-24 from the field though, and got to the line only once. He also had five turnovers, for the second game in a row, including one very costly one. With 48 seconds left and the Bulls down just four, Boozer’s left hand forgot how to dribble, and the ball, and probably the Bulls’ chances in this series, were gone.

Boozer wasn’t happy about the officials either, but the Bulls aren’t the type of team to blame the refs. There were some questionable calls, but there always are. And the Bulls are an extremely physical team on the inside, and have gotten away with a lot of contact throughout the year. It caught up with them at a bad time.  Chicago didn’t lose that game because of the officiating; they lost because their two best players are watching instead of playing.

And that fact isn’t changing tonight. The Bulls should get a boost, going back home to a (hopefully) pumped-up and supportive crowd.

Something the Bulls can build on is C.J. Watson’s second half. Watson hadn’t scored for six quarters, before he exploded for 17 points in the second half. Watson also gave up two killer three pointers to Jrue Holiday though, so that’s the part Chicago shouldn’t build off.

Rip Hamilton took a step back, scoring just seven points on 3-9 shooting. Rip only played 24 minutes. He wasn’t playing great, but Ronnie Brewer isn’t a scorer and Kyle Korver doesn’t bring as much to the table. Brewer was scoreless in his 17 minutes, while Korver scored five points in 22 minutes.

What can the Bulls do without their best players? Hopefully they don’t roll over. Chicago always talked about their heart and hustle, and it would be wrong to see this team go down any other way than grinding. Grinding just might not be enough.

This wasn’t the way this Bulls season was supposed to end—in the first round, to an eight seed. But that’s the way things go sometimes. Hopefully it won’t end tonight.

Numbers that must be noted: If the Bulls lose, they’ll be just the fifth number one seed to lose to an eight seed. And the other inevitable…only eight teams have come from a 3-1 deficit to win a seven game series.

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