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Sixers Close Out Bulls, Again

For the second consecutive game, the Sixers have closed out a tight contest with a relentless attack of the hoop, a chip on their shoulder and suffocating defense. Every run was answered today. Every Bulls foray into the lane met with a hard contest, foul, or both. The Sixers took care of home court advantage and hold a commanding 3-1 lead over the Bulls in this first round matchup. (game capsule)

Here's your rotation chart:

It's really something to see the Sixers close out back-to-back games like this after how many years of futility in close games. In both cases, the ball was mostly in Jrue's hands. His 10 fourth-quarter points were absolutely huge. The Bulls cut the lead to 1 point, then Jrue used a Hawes screen to hit one three to push it four, on the next possession he used a Brand screen on the exact same play to hit another pushing it up to 7. The Bulls clawed back to make it a one-point game again, and Jrue drove, got the contact and hit both from the line to push it to three. Just a huge, huge performance in the fourth quarter by Jrue, and the entire team really on the offensive end. They hit 11/12 from the line in the fourth. That's how you put teams away.

They really wouldn't have even been in the game if not for the offensive performance of Spencer Hawes in the first half, and Andre Igudoala's defense and rebounding the entire game. Hawes was the only guy who could throw the ball in the ocean in the opening 24 minutes. His 17 points kept them afloat, and he added a really big hoop off a nice feed by Lou late in the fourth. Iguodala was an absolute man on the glass tonight, and he made a handful of sick defensive plays at key times which will go mostly un-noticed. After playing Deng to a draw in the first three games, he clearly won that battle today.

The Sixers set the tone early in this one, coming out of the gates playing physical basketball, and through tremendous struggles on the offensive end, they never let up on defense. Kyle Korver is going to have nightmares about Jrue Holiday. When Jrue is on him, he usually can't even catch the ball, let alone get a shot off. Jrue is on him like glue over, under and through however many screens the Bulls want to throw at him.

Evan Turner had a really bad game, and his fifth foul almost really cost the Sixers. When he went to the bench with 6:26 left, and Collins had to come in with Lou, the Bulls attacked Williams mercilessly. Watson scored 8 of the Bulls 13 points over the next 4 minutes and change, before Collins finally switched Jrue onto Watson and put an end to that. Turner needs to keep his head in those situations, because even when he isn't scoring, they need him in there for his defense and rebounding.

Elton Brand's disappearance on the offensive end continued, but he played some tough interior defense and finished with 9 boards. They're really going to need him to contribute to the scoring as these playoffs progress. Not really sure what's going on with him, he's spending most of his time being guarded by Boozer, which isn't really being guarded at all.

Up 3-1, heading back to Chicago. Can't really ask for much more. How about closing it on Tuesday?

Player of The Game: Double nil. Spence carried them in the first half, and I can't really remember having any of those "sit him down" moments which are so common. Keep hitting those jumpers, Spence. He also did a really good job contesting shots on the defensive end. Jrue was in the running with 20 points, 8 boards, 6 dimes and disgusting defense the entire game, but much like Spence in game 3, you can't discount early play for fourth quarter play. Iguodala was probably a more viable candidate than Jrue, big game for him.
Series: 3-1, Sixers.
Next Game: @ Chicago, Tuesday night, 9:30pm.