After grinding to a game five victory and saving themselves from elimination on Tuesday at the United Center, the Bulls headed to Philadelphia to play yet another do-or-die game. Fortunately, Gibson was able to play despite spraining his ankle and while Noah was listed as available he didn’t contribute.
The first quarter opened up with Luol Deng draining a shot from 18 feet at the end of the shot clock. He continued his hot shooting through-out the first quarter until the first turnover of the game at the one minute mark led to Andre Iguodala’s elbow colliding with Deng’s nose. Deng finished the quarter with eight and finished the game with nineteen points and a total of seventeen rebounds. He would return in the second quarter after a couple of stitches. The mid-range game was working early for the rest of the squad as well, even Omer Asik! For the 76ers Jrue Holiday opened the quarter hot, connecting on two three pointers and a lay-up for nine points. He would finish with 14 points. The Bulls opened the game on 13-7 run but Philadelphia got back on track and finished the quarter with a two point lead.
The second quarter was when things started to get ugly for the Bulls. John Lucas III started off hot, starting 3-4 with seven points but he also picked up two early fouls. After a couple ugly possessions on offense, Philadelphia capitalized and tied the game up at 32. With Omer Asik out of the game, combined with a technical foul on Taj Gibson, the 76ers went on a 15-2 run led by Lou Williams who finished the game with 14 points. However, Gibson and Deng helped stopped the bleeding a little, cutting the Chicago deficit to five. The Rose-less Bulls would head into the locker room down by eight. On a positive note, Spencer Hawes, a spark for the 76ers so far finished the half with only two points. He added six more to that total.
The third quarter started out ugly for both teams, until Philly finally hit two back to back field goals four minutes in, followed by a put-back slam by Luol Deng, which accounted for his tenth rebound of the night. The Bulls go on a mini-run cutting the deficit to eight points but a solid effort on both sides by Iggy helped the 76ers take another 12 point lead. In the ultimate game of runs, the Bulls went on what might have been the most vital run of the season so far. Led by Rip Hamilton, who scored eight of his nineteen points and eight rebounds in the third, the Bulls tied the game 63-63 before heading to the locker room in preparation for the final twelve minutes. The Bulls scored on seven of their last nine possessions of the fourth. Wondering why I haven’t mentioned Boozer? He had a total of three points. If not for CJ Watson’s performance, Bulls fans would be calling for his head even more.
The Bulls opened the lid on the fourth quarter with back to back free throw makes by Omer Asik and Taj Gibson. Counting from the third quarter, the Bulls were on a 20-4 run until Iggy hit a mid-range jumper on a switch which accounted for the first FG of the quarter. The Bulls followed up with a Taj Gibson slam from Luol Deng, putting the Bulls back up by four. The two teams traded jumpers until the waning possessions, when Thaddeus Young (eight points) drove to the cup for 2 points, cutting the Philadelphia deficit to just one with twelve seconds to go. With no time outs left, CJ Watson caught the ball on the inbounds, got all the way to the free throw line, and in what was the most costly gamble of the season, dished it to Asik for the dunk. Unfortunately, Asik was hammered before the dunk, went to the line and missed both. Philly pushed the ball up, Iggy got two free throws, sunk them both and that was the season. Andre finished the game with a strong 20 points, 7 assists and four boards. Despite a 56 – 33 rebidding advantage, the Chicago Bulls just couldn’t hold on.
Great season, great effort, great resiliency, great TEAM, horrible luck. As I’m typing this right now, the fate of Philly’s second round opponent is being decided. Good luck to the 76ers. They fought hard and it’s been a long time coming for Doug Collins.