It takes four wins to take a series, not three. A 3-1 lead is commanding, but until you get that fourth win nothing matters. Tonight, the Bulls are going to be primed for a fight. There's no way they roll over and die on their home court with playoff extinction on the line. Be ready to match their intensity, be ready to take their best shot and fire back with one of your own. Get this win.
There was a lesson to be learned from the first half of game four. Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday couldn't buy a hoop, but the were relentless in attacking the hoop. Time and time again they drove into the teeth of Chicago's defense, that took a toll. The refs were stingy with the whistles early, but as the game wore on, they got the calls. The aggressive team gets the whistles, eventually. Tonight, the whistles are probably going to be harder to come by. Home crowds influence refs. If the Sixers get discouraged, if their perimeter players settle for jumpers instead of pressing the action, it's going to be a long night.
There aren't a whole lot of new story lines when you get this deep in a series. The Sixers should still have an advantage on the perimeter, Jrue and Turner will have matchups they can exploit. Keeping Asik and Taj Gibson off the offensive glass is a key, as usual. The one area you'd love to see the Sixers improve upon is the production from the four. Thad Young hasn't done a whole lot in this series, probably because he's mostly had a tough matchup against Taj Gibson. I'd like to see him get out in the open floor, but that's tough to do when you're battling to keep your man off the o-boards. Maybe settle for less jumpers and try to get into the paint from that face-up position. Elton Brand doesn't really have an excuse. He's been mostly guarded by Carlos Boozer, who is a terrible defender. The Bulls have done a good job of playing up on Brand when he catches the ball in the 15-18 foot range, taking away his bread-and-butter jumper. I'd like to see him take Boozer down on the low blocks, he can get his shots up over Boozer. With Hawes hitting his jumpers from the outside, he should have room to work down there.
I'm expecting another ugly game, a defensive battle to the end. It's important the Sixers treat this as a must-win. They need to do everything they can to close this series out tonight. The last thing you want to do is give the Bulls hope. Take their best shot, give it right back to them and end this series.
The tip is at 9:30pm. Game thread will land around 7.