May 4, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Spencer Hawes (00) defends against Chicago Bulls point guard C.J. Watson (7) during the first half of game three in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Wells Fargo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

NBA Playoffs 2012: Hawes Keys Fourth Quarter Run, 76ers Take 2-1 Lead

A game after having a complete meltdown in the third quarter saw the Bulls at it again. Only this time, they waited a quarter longer to fall apart.

After a third quarter collapse saw the Bulls lose their shot at taking a 2-0 lead in the series, it appeared that they were on their way to going up 2-1, as they built a lead as big as 14, as they up 67-53 early in the fourth. That’s when the wheels fell off.

From there, the 76ers went on a 26-7 run to end the game, leading to the end result of a 79-74 76ers victory.

Spencer Hawes keyed the run for the 76ers, scoring 10 of his team high 21 points in the fourth, including the go-ahead jumper with just a couple minutes left to play in the game, sealing the fate of the Bulls from there, as they would never get the lead back. Evan Turner, who was the key to their massive third quarter in game two, followed that outing up with another rock solid one, going for 16 points and grabbing nine boards along the way.

The Bulls didn’t just lose the game today, they also had another scare when Joakim Noah went down with a sprained ankle in the third quarter. Noah returned, but was never the same after that and clearly labored down the stretch of the game.

This was a game where defense was the name of it all game long. The only Bull who could say they had some semblance of a solid game today was Boozer, going 9/17 for 18 points. Unfortunately for them though, he was saddled with foul trouble throughout the game, picking up his fourth with just over four minutes to go in the fourth. Luol Deng, who had been so reliable for most of the season for Chicago, followed up his game two dud with another one, scoring only five points on 2/7 shooting tonight.

Outside of the fourth, Philadelphia wasn’t much better, scoring only 51 through the first three quarters. Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams both struggled again, combining to score just 19 points and going just 7/23 and 0/9 from three point range.

Player of the Game: Spencer Hawes

It couldn’t be anyone else tonight. He was their most efficient player tonight on offense and cleaned the glass quite nicely against one of the best rebounding teams in basketball. He also helped key that huge fourth quarter run that sealed the fate of this game.

Keys Moving Forward:

For the Bulls, they just have to keep chugging along on defense, and hope their offense comes around. Boozer showed some signs of life today, and they need that and then some from him going forward in this series. They also can’t afford another poor outing from Deng. He’s been awful the last two games and really needs to step his game up for them to have a chance. Oh, and CJ Watson, who was so steady for Chicago all season in the absence of Rose, needs to play better too. He was terrible tonight and needs to be better.

For Philadelphia, they just need to keep doing what they’re doing defensively. They’ve been stout the last two games, and it’s hard to see them not keeping that up. They do need to do one thing though – find a way to score before they’ve dug themselves in a big hole. They can’t expect to be able to come back and win every game, so an early lead would help their cause greatly.

Game four will be on Sunday at 1:00 EST/12:00 CST in Philadelphia. If it plays out like the last couple of games, we could be on our way to the end of this series and seeing Philadelphia doing something that rarely happens – the eight seed knocking off the one seed.

Tags: Chicago Bulls Joakim Noah Philadelphia 76ers Spencer Hawes

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