Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls went back to their roots to stave off elimination.
At least for one more game. The Chicago Bulls defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in game five to bring the series to 3-2.
The Bulls managed to survive an awful offensive night yet again by playing the most stout defense we’ve seen in a series full of defensive struggles.
Chicago, who has struggled on offense all series since Rose went down, did so again tonight. They only mustered a whopping 77 points. It’s a good thing for them their defense had the clamps on all night, allowing a series low 69 points for the 76ers, who had their first opportunity to close the series out tonight.
The Bulls had it going defensively all night, too. They held Philadelphia to just 26 – read that – 26 first half points, including a measly 10 in a second quarter where they hit just four of their 23 shots. For the game, the 76ers were just as bad, hitting a season low 32.1 percent of their shots, just two of their 11 three pointers, and turning it over 14 times.
While Chicago wasn’t much better – hitting just 41 percent of their shots and turning it over 15 times – they were good enough. And that’s all that was needed tonight.
Luol Deng paced the Bulls with his best game of the series, hitting 10 of his 19 shots for 24 points. He also chipped in on the boards and defensively too, gathering eight rebounds as well as two steals and two blocks. Carlos Boozer also came through with his best game – a 19 point, 13 rebound double double, while also pitching in six assists.
Jrue Holiday led the 76ers in scoring, getting 16 points, but hitting just five of his 17 shots in the process. Spencer Hawes continued his solid series with an 11 point and 14 rebound performance, while Lou Williams chipped in 13 off the bench.
There still is zero room for error for Chicago. They’ll travel to Philadelphia on Thursday night in yet another elimination game. If they play defense like this though, it’s going to be tough for the 76ers to manage enough offense for that series ending victory.
Player of the Game: The Bulls Defense
I’m not giving it to one player in specific tonight (though Deng and Boozer would be good choices). Instead, I’m giving it to the entire Bulls defense. It was a total team effort tonight on that end, and it shows in the box score. They completely shut down the 76ers offense tonight, forcing them into a bunch of turnovers, and managing to block 11 shots while they were at it.
Keys Moving Forward:
I feel like I’m being a broken record, but it’s quite simple for Chicago - keep playing defense. It’s kept them in two of the games they lost and it’s the reason why they won tonight. Their defense will continue to be the reason why they succeed not just in this series, but moving forward in the postseason if they manage to advance. It would also help them if Deng and Boozer continue to play as well as they did tonight. If they can get that kind of performance from those two and more of that vintage Bulls defense, they could just make this a series.
For Philadelphia, it’s simple as well.
Play defense and try and get out in transition for easy points. If they can’t do that, they’re going to continue to have a tough time in this series, because there is no such this as an easy basket against this Bulls defense in the half court. They also need to get Jrue Holiday going. He’s been atrocious shooting the ball all series and that continued tonight. If they’re going to win, they can’t afford him having another five for 17 dud like he did tonight. It’d also help them if Andre Iguodala stepped up. Or Williams. Or Thaddeus Young. Really any of them. Shy of Hawes, they’ve had no consistency on offense, and that’s killed them, and could really come back to haunt them if this series goes to a game seven.
Mike Owens is a blogger/writer for “Sir Charles in Charge”. You can follow him on Twitter @mikeowens1