May 6, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Jrue Holiday (11) celebrates making a basket during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls during game four in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Wells Fargo Arena. The Sixers defeated the Bulls 89-82. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

NBA Playoffs 2012: Holiday Hits Clutch Threes as 76ers Prevail

Despite being in a terrible slump all game, Jrue Holiday came through when his team needed him the most, sealing another hard fought victory for the 76ers down the stretch of game four.

In the closing minutes of a closely contested game four, Jrue Holiday hit consecutive three pointers that pushed the 76ers frail one point lead to a seven point cushion that they wouldn’t relinquish.

While Holiday was the one that came up with the late-game heroics, they were once again led by Spencer Hawes, who went for 22 points (on just 11 shots) and eight rebounds, giving him back to back 20 point outings for the first time all year.

It was another hard loss for Chicago, who was playing without a pair of starters – Derrick Rose (torn ACL) and Joakim Noah (sprained ankle). This loss now puts them in a position no one thought they’d be in at the beginning of the postseason: on the brink of elimination.

Unlike the last couple of games though, this one didn’t really involve an epic collapse for Chicago. They went down by nine in the first and could never really get over the hump after that. They can thank the Philadelphia defense for that, as they were held to just 40 percent shooting, made just three of their 11 three point attempts, and were forced into 14 turnovers.

The Bulls were paced by Carlos Boozer, going for 23 points and 11 rebounds, but he also turned it over five times. And, after an awful first half, C.J. Watson was able to turn it on after the break and score all 17 of his points in the second half. Taj Gibson also chipped in with a 14 point, 12 rebound double double, though only scored two of those points after the first half.

The loss put the Bulls down 3-1 in this series as it shifts back to Chicago for game five. The odds are certainly not in their favor, either. If my numbers are correct, there’s only been eight times when a team came back from down 3-1…and that’s out of 200 tries. The most recent, if my memory serves me correct, is the 2006 Phoenix Suns, who came back to beat the Lakers in seven games that year. So while it’s not as impossible as 3-0 is (which no team has ever recovered from in the NBA), it’s certainly not easy, and this is what the Bulls are now faced with.

Player of the Game: Jrue Holiday

His numbers certainly weren’t eye popping, going only 7/23 on the game, but he stepped up when it counted and hit the two biggest shots of the game. Those two treys stretched a one point lead to a seven point lead, and they never looked back from there. I’ll also give props to Spencer Hawes who played arguably his best game of the year today.

Keys Moving Forward:

I don’t really know what else to say for the Bulls. I honestly think they’re playing about as well as they can, especially given their limited assets for this game. It’s hard enough for them to win when their best player is out, but it wasn’t made any easier today with Noah being out too. If the Bulls are winning this series, they need to find a way to solve this Philadelphia defense. It’s shown that they’re not winning on defense alone right now (which they’ve played good defense all series), so they have to find a way to get things going offensively. Whether that be Boozer controlling the post more, Hamilton finding a way to get free for some jumpers, or Deng getting to the hoop, they have to do something. Their defense has been good enough to win each and every game this series, but their offense isn’t cutting it. If they can’t find a way to get past that 90 point mark in game five, this series is over. And honestly, even if that happens, I’m still not sold that it it’s going to be enough.

For the 76ers, it’s much of the same. Just keep doing what you’re doing. They’ve had a great balanced attack on offense all series, and they’ve played stout defense on the Bull since Rose went down in game one. If the 76ers just keep playing the way they’ve been, they’re going to win this series. It’s that simple for them. No need to change a game plan that’s working, and Doug Collins knows that.

Game five will be Tuesday night at 9:30pm on the East coast and 8:30pm for those of us in the Midwest. We’ll find out then if the Bulls can muster up enough offense to will them to a victory and push this series back to Philadelphia. But, if we can take anything at all from these last three games it’s this: these 76ers mean business, and the Bulls will need to play their best game of this postseason to push this series further.

Tags: Carlos Boozer Chicago Bulls Joakim Noah Jrue Holiday Philadelphia 76ers Spencer Hawes

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