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Keep The Mind Trick Going

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How did the Sixers completely change the script from game one to game two (beyond the absence of Derrick Rose)? Well, it's pretty simple. They somehow lured the Bulls into going away from their massive strength on the interior. The Bulls shot 10/29 inside of 9 feet. They attempted more long twos (26) than shots at the rim (18). I don't know how they did it, but this is the formula they've used to play the Bulls tight over the past two seasons, and they need to keep it up.

The crazy thing about game two was the Sixers really seemed to have no answer for Joakim Noah. He hit 10/11 shots, but when you take a step back and look at how he scored, you can sort of live with it. Noah was 4/4 on long twos and 3/4 from mid-range. Two of his makes came on somewhat out-of-control drives that he finished with a lefty scoop shot on the run. Probably not a high-percentage look for him. He wasn't getting his points off cuts or offensive rebounds, not much about his game was sustainable at all, and nothing he got was really a result of the size advantage the Bulls enjoy. Boozer and Taj Gibson combined to score 17 points on 19 shots. The Bulls didn't turn the ball over, they shot great from three (6/14) and the Sixers still blew their doors off. The key is limiting the bigs.

I'd love to say Lavoy will get the start tonight, but I kind of doubt Collins changes things coming off a win. In Hawes' defense, the biggest run on Tuesday night did come with him on the floor (at the start of the third quarter). Cross your fingers that Lavoy will get more burn than Spence.

The axiom regarding bench play in the NBA, especially in the playoffs, is that the peripheral players perform better at home. If that holds, the Sixers should be in good shape. Lou came alive in the fourth quarter of game two after the Sixers had gained a little breathing room, but neither he nor Thad have been huge cogs in the offense in the first two games. If either one of them, or both, can come out and really carry the offense for a stretch in the first and second halves, it will go a long way toward bringing home a win.

In the starting lineup, I think they're going to probably need to go away from Iguodala a little bit more than usual. He had an uncharacteristically sloppy game on Tuesday, getting stuck in the air several times and trying to force passes in the lane. He's clearly hampered by the achilles strain. Let Jrue and Turner handle the ball, let Iguodala spot up for open looks from three and save his energy for work on the defensive end. Hopefully, he's close to 100%, we're going to have to wait and see.

Whether Iguodala is healthy or not, I'd put money on Thibodeau making an adjustment to his defensive matchups. Deng will probably be on Turner, which is a tough matchup for ET. The Sixers need to look to push the ball off every defensive rebound because when you get up the floor quickly, it's really tough for cross-matched defenders to get to their men. Minimally, you should see Turner wind up with Watson, Lucas, Korver or Hamilton on him, which are all matchups he can attack. Best case, the Bulls get lost trying to scramble to their men and someone winds up wide open.

Finally, we need to see the game two version of Jrue for the rest of this series. I'm not talking about the insane shooting so much as the control and the comfort level. When Jrue is at his best, he's methodical with the ball. He takes his time leading his man into screens, he dribbles slowly into, probing, looking, until the crease opens up or his man relaxes, then he drives or elevates in a split-second. He gets into trouble when he rushes, when he tries to go too fast all the time. His game isn't frenetic, it's controlled, it's deliberate. When he slows down he can find the angles, and he can use his size and handle to exploit those angles, to get a high percentage shot for himself or for someone else when the defense makes a mistake. If I had to pick one guy on the team who has seemed to belong on this stage, it's Jrue (excepting game 1 of this series). He was sharing the floor with four All Stars, current or former, and he was clearly the best guy on the court. Now it's time for him to show some consistency.

The tip is at 8pm. Game thread will land around 6.
by Brian on May 4 2012
Tags: Basketball | Chicago Bulls | Game 3 | Playoffs | Sixers |