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Sixers Win Together, Again

The latest in a string of demonstrative wins came over Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls tonight at the Wells Fargo Center, 98-82. Here's the thing about this win that should have people taking notice. The Sixers played the exact same game they've been playing all year. They used the exact same formula they've been using to kill bad teams to absolutely demoralize the Chicago Bulls. Derek Rose had no clue what to do against the Sixers defense in the third quarter. For all intents and purposes, the Bulls looked about as effective against this Sixers defense as the Wizards. (game capsule)

Here's your rotation chart. Three units really stand out: The starters were bad at the beginning, the second unit completely turned the game around immediately thereafter, then the starters put the screws to the Bulls to begin the third:

I had to take some time before writing this wrap mainly because if I didn't wait, it would've been about 10,000 words long. There's so much you can say about this game, so much you can say about the contributions each player made to a truly resounding win over a very, very good opponent. We'll get to some of that, but what you really need to take away from this game, and really from the season to this point is the simplest thing in the world. The Philadelphia 76ers are a basketball team. Simple, but it's become a rare thing in the NBA, and it means everything.

Think about this game for a second. In the first quarter, the starters didn't have it. The bench came in and Evan Turner energized them with his defense and his passing. They all fed off it and went on a big run. In the closing minutes of the second quarter, Derrick Rose decided he was going to bring the Bulls back from the abyss all by himself. He closed the quarter scoring Chicago's final 8 points. Thad Young wouldn't let the lead disappear, nearly matching the reining MVP shot for shot and scoring 7 straight for the Sixers.

The Sixers took their five-point lead into the locker room at the half and went to work. What was Chicago doing well? OK, let's take that away from them. They came out in the third quarter, put Jrue on Derek Rose and decided as a team they wouldn't let him get into the lane off the pick-and-roll. Battie lagged off his man, Jrue fought over screens or just jumped them. The wings tightened their coverage on their men, and they absolutely swarmed. From whistle to whistle in the third quarter, it looked like the Sixers had six guys out there on defense. By the end of the quarter, Derrick Rose...DERRICK ROSE, looked completely lost. He had no idea what to do out there. Nothing worked. Rose was 1/5 for three points with 2 turnovers in the third. The Bulls scored 11 points in the third quarter, three of them came on a prayer of a three pointer by CJ Watson as the shot clock expired. Take a look at this image:

The Bulls attempted two shots in the lane in the entire quarter, and one of them was blocked. They had six turnovers, two assists and three made field goals. The defense was spectacular.

While the team was ganging up on Rose and Bulls on one end of the floor, the Sixers took turns putting points on the board on the other end. Iguodala opened the quarter with seven straight points in spectacular fashion. He then went behind his back in transition before figuratively and literally passing the mantel to Jrue who scored the next six, then they spread the ball around from big to small for the rest of the quarter. When Jrue hit a three with 5 seconds to go in the third, he pushed the lead to 20 points and the Bulls were officially toast.

The Sixers were tonight, and really have been all season, the epitome of the word team. They move as one being, not five disparate parts, on the defensive end. They're like a fog hanging over the floor, everywhere at once. On the offensive end, there are no numbers on the back of jerseys. If you're open, you get the ball. If you're open, you take the shot. If you have a shot but someone else has a better shot, you pass the ball. It took them some time in the fourth to figure out how to beat the trapping zone Chicago went to. After the brief learning curve, two quick passes turned into dunks. It didn't matter who was making the pass, who was throwing it down. All that mattered was two more points under the 76 on the score board.

I'm sure I've strayed too close to poetry for most (or at least much closer to poetry than my usually bland style), but I can't help it. This team inspired me tonight. This team made me believe in everything that makes team sports so much fun to watch and should make the super "teams" ashamed to use the noun. It's not like this every night, but when it is like this, it doesn't matter who the Sixers are playing, not one bit. Derrick Rose sat on the bench the entire fourth quarter asking himself, "What the hell was that?" Derrick, that was a team.

Player of The Game: Andre Iguodala gets it for his amazing play in the third quarter, a great overall line (19 pts / 9 boards / 4 assists / 2 steals / 1 block) and more importantly, setting the tone that he wasn't afraid of the big bad Bulls, in fact, he was going to ram this game right down their throats. He set the tone, the others followed. Lavoy Allen gets a huge nod here as well. The rook scored 15 points, grabbed six boards, handed out three assists and tacked on two steals. Prior to the game, I wasn't sure Allen would even be in the rotation now that Nikola Vucevic is back. Well, Collins had him off the bench first and on a night when Elton Brand clearly didn't have his legs, Allen spent the final 16 minutes of the game manning the middle. Jrue deserves some consideration for the reward for his defense on Rose (he was spectacular) as well as his huge second half. If there ever was a third-quarter dagger, it was his three to push the lead to 20. Jrue finished with 17 points, 4 boards, 5 dimes and only one turnover. Thad, well, Thad was a man. There's so much more to talk about, but I'll just leave it at wow. Great game, guys. Now do it again.
Team Record: 16-6
Up Next: vs. MIA, Friday night.