Another backbreaking, gut-wrenching loss to an elite team. Losses like this are so unbelievably tough to take because they tease you. They tell you the Sixers are so close to being on Chicago's level, a Chicago team that really wanted this game (wanted it so badly that Derrick Rose played the entire first, third and fourth quarters and only sat six minutes all night), and they nearly couldn't have it. So close. But when all is said and done, it's just another loss. (game capsule).
Here's your rotation chart. Note the units which dug the hole in the fourth, and then the unit that nearly pulled them out of it:
I don't have the stomach to go over the final few possessions. We've all seen how those played out on an endless loop for the past season-and-a-half. Instead, let's talk about what was different about the fourth quarter. With 8:32 to go, Derrick Rose hit a three to give Chicago an 11-point lead and I declared the Sixers dead in the game thread. After a Jrue turnover, Doug Collins put Lou Williams into the game for Evan Turner and I sighed, expected the Lou show as a last-ditch attempt by Collins to make a run. The Bulls missed a jumper, the Sixers turned the ball over, Deng made a layup to push the lead to 13, then Collins called a 20-second timeout. When the Sixers came out of that timeout, everything changed.
For starters, Jrue Holiday actually brought the ball up the floor and played point guard. I don't mean he nominally played point and just looked for his own points, but he actually ran the offense and spread the ball around. On the defensive end, Collins switched up their defense on Derrick Rose, sending Thad to trap him hard as soon as he crossed half-court with the ball. Here's how the Sixers rattled off 21 points in 6:07 (after scoring 22 in the previous 16 or so minutes):
- Lou to the line, hits both (2)
- Missed jumper, AI9 defensive board. Brand hits an 8-footer, Jrue assist (4)
- Deng missed three. Jrue tips the rebound to himself, pushes it up the floor, fires a pass ahead to Thad for a dunk in transition. (6)
- Thad to line for a pair of a pass from Jrue on the inside. Hits both. (8)
- Deng misses another three. Lou grabs the rebound, quick outlet to Iguodala who hits Jrue for a lefty dunk. (10)
- Noah makes a putback. Lou takes a bad shot. C.J. Watson hits a three (lead back to 9). Iguodala misses a jumper, Brand gets the o-board, collects himself and hits a short jumper (12)
- Deng misses another shot, AI9 grabs the board, Lou misses a three. Thad grabs the o-board, puts it back in and draws the foul. Hits the freebie. (15).
- Jrue steals the ball from Rose (bad pass out of the halfcourt trap). In the half court, Jrue runs off a curl, gets into the paint, draws two guys, dishes to Thad for a layup. (17)
- Jrue finds Thad again for a layup. (19)
- Lou hits Thad for a 13-footer. (21)
In that stretch they went from down 13 to down 4, then from down 9 to down 2. They had eight hoops, all inside the foul line. Six of the eight were assisted on, the other two came off offensive rebounds. Not a single isolation play except the two freebies for Lou to start the run. Thad's two free throws came off what would've been an assist from Jrue. Iguodala was the only guy on the floor not to score for the Sixers, though he did have a couple of rebounds and an assist.
I point out this stretch of basketball not because it's particularly out of character for the Sixers. It's not. But because it's completely out of character for the Sixers at this time of the game. Instead of giving the ball to Lou and letting him dribble the air out of it and hopefully get hot, they ran their offense and they let Jrue make plays in the half court and they shared the scoring load. A novel idea, considering the team's strength in numbers and plentiful playmakers, but a successful strategy nonetheless.Jrue has had two stretches like this that I can remember this season. Tonight, and a stretch in the third quarter against the Hawks when he handed out 8 dimes in a very short period of time. I wish we'd see more of it from him, but honestly, I don't care who's initiating as long as their running plays, penetrating and finding Thad, Brand, Voose or Allen around the hoop for easy looks. It's simple, but they go away from it time and time again.
The sad part about this game is the Sixers really outplayed the Bulls down the stretch. Joakim Noah did everything he possibly could to hand this game to the Sixers, but they just couldn't get it done. The hole turned out to be too deep and they couldn't dig themselves all the way out. The three Iguodala missed with about 5 seconds left wasn't the one that killed them, it was the three he airballed when they were down by 2 and rallying with 1:10 left. Thad has just scored the last of the 21 points mentioned above and Noah kindly turned the ball over. Instead of sticking with what got them there, Iguodala took a three, which maybe wasn't a terrible shot if not for the result, but there were 13 seconds on the shot clock and Chicago had no answer for dribble penetration and Thad on the inside. He should've kept with what was working instead of going for the lead with that three.
On the defensive end, no one had any luck with Rose (outside of those possessions where they trapped him). Jrue starting on him and Rose was hot from the outside, then they switched Igudoala onto him, but even forcing him left didn't have the desired effect. Rose was awesome tonight.
Player of The Game: Thad. 6/13 for 17 points (13 in the fourth quarter) 9 boards, 1 assist and zero turns in 28 minutes. He started terribly, but caught fire right when they needed him.
Team Record: 22-16
Up Next: @ MIL, Monday night.
Jrue's Goal: 0/1. One turnover is good, zero free throws is not. Jrue had an up and down game. In the first quarter he looked like a great SG, draining shots and nearly matching Rose hoop-for-hoop. In the fourth he looked like a great PG and great defender. In between he looked like garbage on the offensive end. (2-8-2 since inception.