With a loss against the Detroit Pistons, the Sixers clinched a first round meeting with the Chicago Bulls, the one Evan Turner was so anxious to get. Why did he want to face the Bulls over the Heat? Because the regular season results would indicate that these are two very evenly matched teams.
One thing that I’ve tossed around this year is the concept of point differential as a predictor of future performance. That is, beating your opponents by a bunch of points usually bodes well for the future – it relates more to future success than other predictors, such as current record. It’s why so many believed the Sixers had a very good team early in the year. Because of a weak early schedule, the Sixers started off strong record-wise and even stronger in the point differential department. Then, Spencer Hawes suffered an injury, the schedule became more difficult, Doug started to wear on the guys, and everything that was going right started to fall apart. Eventually, we weren’t able to sustain the differential and ended up where we are now.
Which is why we shouldn’t necessarily use these stats as a be-all, end-all. It usually works; it doesn’t always work, however. And adding in injuries and timing and all those other things that happened to be accentuated by a short season and a small sample, you find these match ups aren’t as predictive as we’d like. Yet doing this review, we’ll see what worked well, what didn’t, and what each team has been able to throw out there against the other, instead of just looking at the overall numbers. Then, I’ll summarize the results at the end and see what the keys to the series may be.
Game 1: Philadelphia (h) 98 – Chicago 82
One sentence summary: The Sixers blitzed the Bulls in the third quarter successfully, to the point Derrick Rose sat out for most of the fourth quarter, in a decisive 16-point win.
Box Score: here
What was missing?: Rose played only 31 minutes and was coming off an injury. Luol Deng missed the game entirely with his now-lingering wrist injury. Rip Hamilton also sat out for Chicago. Spencer Hawes sat out with a bad back.
What can we learn?: Without Luol Deng the Bulls defense is not nearly as good as it is with him. If you can keep the Bulls off the offensive glass, they become a fairly unimpressive offensive team. Usually, the Bulls are a dominant offensive rebounding team, which helps them immensely. With an entirely healthy big rotation, the Bulls still managed only 8 offensive rebounds. Finally, they may have noticed that leaving C.J. Watson open from behind the three point line will be a painful regret. He scored 20 points off the pine, though Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams showed the Sixers clearly have a greater scoring threat off of their bench.
Game 2: Chicago 96 – Philadelphia (h) 91
One sentence summary: Derrick Rose hits crazy shots in bunches, while the Sixers have no reliable scorer.
Box score: here
What was missing?: The Bulls had a healthy rotation. Even Rip Hamilton played, albeit for only 18 minutes, though that’s been a trend for him. Spencer Hawes also missed this game.
What can we learn?: This game sticks out to me more than the other two, as this is more indicative of what the Bulls are capable of. Many of their role players struggled, but Derrick Rose’s huge scoring night more than made up for it. Andre Iguodala showed that he may not be the best defender against Rose, though he was tasked to cover him without much help. Joakim Noah can be a really annoying rebounder and player in general, but he’s very effective. He grabbed 7 o-boards, seven of the nine Chicago pulled down. Carlos Boozer was cool with just kinda hanging around.
Game 3: Chicago (h) 89 – Philadelphia 80
One sentence summary: The Sixers were falling apart, while the Bulls continued to prove they were still a team to reckon with while missing their superstar.
Box score: here
What was missing?: Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton sat out due to injury. Spencer Hawes had returned, but by then he was doing more bad than good for the team.
What can we learn?: The Bulls won mainly because the Sixers couldn’t stop the Bulls time after time on the same possession. Giving up 17 offensive rebounds is not optimal. Noah, again, along with Taj Gibson and Omer Asik, dominated the offensive glass. Meanwhile, Boozer stood around some more. You would think that, with an actual center, we’d at least not get this much worse on the boards, but it happened. Jrue Holiday hijacked the offense, to mixed results, and will likely not look to do so in this round. C.J. Watson burned the nets again.
One sentence summary: These two teams do a lot of similar things well, but the Bulls do a few things slightly better than the Sixers do, which will likely make the difference in this playoff series.
What was missing?: Spencer Hawes and Rip Hamilton missed the majority of the action. Evan Turner was in uniform but missing in action during the games.
What can we learn?: That the Bulls and Sixers have some similar strengths, such as having strong two-way wing players, good ball security, and elite defenses. However, the Bulls have Derrick Rose and elite offensive rebounding in addition to those strengths I listed above, which makes them a great team and not merely a good team. The Sixers, meanwhile, cannot win close games. There’s little doubt in my mind that this will be a competitive, physical match up, but there’s little to show that the Sixers have a legitimate chance for an upset, just because the Bulls really are that good.
Tags: Andre Iguodala C.J. Watson Carlos Boozer Chicago Bulls Derrick Rose Evan Turner Joakim Noah Jrue Holiday Lou Williams Luol Deng Omer Asik Playoffs Rip Hamilton Spencer Hawes Taj Gibson Thaddeus Young