Sixers even series against Bulls
CHICAGO — The Philadelphia 76ers took full advantage of fortunate circumstances to even their first-round playoff series against Chicago.
The top-seeded Bulls lost three-time All-Star Derrick Rose on Saturday with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, and the 76ers used a huge second half to pull off a 109-92 victory in Game 2 on Tuesday at the United Center.
Now tied at 1-1, the series moves to Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center on Friday.
“I can’t tell you how exciting it is to come in here to Chicago and get a playoff win here on the road for our team,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said. “It was a great, great night. This is our 11th road game out of the last 13 games we’ve played, so we’ve been sort of the road warriors.”
Chicago seemed to weather the loss of Rose relatively well while building a 55-47 advantage at halftime. However, the Bulls barely saw what sped past them in the third quarter. Philadelphia cranked up its fast-break game to outscore the Chicago 36-14.
The Sixers pushed the lead to 20 points early in the fourth quarter and witnessed a rare scene at the United Center — fans steaming for the exits with five minutes left. The Bulls produced the NBA’s best record in each of the past two seasons and were usually on the winning end of lopsided games.
“It’s getting defensive stops,” Collins said. “We talked about if we could get them to 45 percent field-goal shooting. They shot 52 percent in Game 1. We got them to 45, and then we rebounded the ball, which allowed us to get out and run.”
The game turned around quickly as the Sixers opened the second half with a 19-4 run and stretched the lead to 14 points heading into the fourth. Philadelphia hit 15 of 22 shots during the third quarter.
“I thought the third quarter was the game,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. “In the first five minutes, they were into us. We took tough shots. We did not have floor balance.”
Guard Jrue Holiday led Philadelphia with 26 points, hitting 11 of 15 shots from the field, including all three of his 3-point attempts. Guard Lou Williams came off the bench to score 20 points, and Chicago native Evan Turner added 19 for the visitors, who shot 59 percent from the field.
Center Joakim Noah led the Bulls with 21 points, while guard John Lucas III added 15 and C.J. Watson, Rose’s replacement at point guard, had 12. The Sixers outscored Chicago 25-8 in fast-break points.
“I’m not shocked. I’m a little disappointed and I’m embarrassed we played like that on our home court,” Bulls forward Luol Deng said. “Now we’ve got to get the job done on the road.”
Rose attended the game and waved to fans from center court before the opening tip, then watched the action from a luxury suite. There’s no word yet on when he might have surgery to repair his left knee.
Both teams were able to ride hot hands during the first half. Holiday hit seven of eight shots from the field for 17 points during the first two quarters.
Noah, meanwhile, was a perfect 7-for-7 from the field while scoring 14 points in the opening half. Noah and Lucas combined to score 18 points as the Bulls finished the second quarter on a 23-12 run to take a 55-47 edge at the break.
NOTES: Thibodeau didn’t have much reaction to finishing second in the NBA Coach of the Year voting. However, he did have plenty of praise for the winner, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich. “The thing about Pop is he’s a great example for our profession,” Thibodeau said before the game. “I’m happy for him that he’s had a great season.” Popovich received 77 first-place votes, while Thibodeau got 27. Thibodeau could have become the first coach in league history to win the award two years in a row. … Philadelphia shuffled its starting lineup for Game 2, using Turner and center Spencer Hawes instead of Jodie Meeks and Lavoy Allen. … The Bulls are 30-2 all-time in playoff series when they have home-court advantage, and 31-4 when they win Game 1. Last year in the Eastern Conference finals, they had the home-court edge and won Game 1 vs. Miami, then lost the series in five games.