Normally, this contest would be one where I would say Philadelphia could steal a game and earn a win. The Bulls are still without Derrick Rose; the Sixers proved in the first round of last year’s playoffs that they’re capable of taking down a Rose-less Chicago squad, especially one who’s gone 3-7 in its last 10 games. Additionally, Taj Gibson is out for two weeks with a sprained left MCL, further depleting a front court hurt by the departure of Omer Asik to free agency. Unfortunately for Philadelphia fans, the Sixers came into the Orlando game Tuesday with every possible chance to earn a win and decided to defecate all over those chances with an abysmal 48 minutes of play, so any level of trust has evaporated.
Chicago won both of the teams’ earlier meetings this season. Luol Deng has given Philadelphia all it can handle in those match-ups, recording 25 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists in the first game and 19 points and 12 rebounds in the second contest. The departure of Andre Iguodala from the Sixers has been evident in this area as he generally shut down Deng in the past and Evan Turner has not proven up to the task. Carlos Boozer has also performed very well on the season. Once only discussed for his amnesty possibilities, Boozer actually has the highest PER of Chicago’s starters at 17.44, having accrued averages of 15.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. He has a refined mid-range and post game so Thad Young will need to be up to the task on the defensive end.
Keys to the game:
- Jrue Holiday has to return to all-star form. He’ll likely be guarded by Kirk Hinrich or Nate Robinson for the majority of the game; lock-down defenders they are not. Be aggressive and go after them early and often.
- Keep Chicago off the offensive glass. The Bulls’ offensive rebounding rate ranks third in the league at 30.4%. Joakim Noah is third in the NBA at 3.9 offensive rebounds per game while Boozer and Deng both also grab more than two offensive rpg. Limiting second chance opportunities will be key for Hawes, Young, and Turner.
Every fiber of my being wants to say that the Sixers pull this game out. If the Orlando game and subsequent Doug Collins epic press conference didn’t serve as a wake-up call, nothing will. However, based on recent play I just can’t predict Philadelphia comes out on top. Chicago corrals too many o-boards, the Sixers’ offense continues to struggle, and the Bulls win a close one.