The Philadelphia 76ers and Chicago Bulls meet for Game 6 tonight, and for the Sixers it’s the best chance to end the series with a win. At home, with injuries still marring the Bulls, the odds are stacked in our favor. Here’s some things to watch for:
1. Active whistles
Game 5 was an exercise in what happens when the officials all but swallow their whistles. And the Sixers actually got more free throws than the Bulls (because they were more aggressive). But the amount of contact that was allowed was startling, and as Doug Collins has hinted the Sixers aren’t the best at playing under those conditions. Considering they have enough trouble scoring without contact, that is a fair assessment.
So having more whistles should actually benefit us, because we need to actually score. It would help the Bulls score too, but they have trouble creating offense, not as much converting shots into offense.
2. How effective is Gibson? Will Noah play?
The latter is a lesson in optimism. Joakim Noah‘s ankle injury seems to be bad enough to keep him out for an extended period of time, but given necessity he may give it a go and risk further injury. Taj Gibson‘s ankle injury suffered in Game 5 allowed him to return then, but we don’t know how it will affect him tonight.
3. Three point shooting
The Sixers are shooting just above 21% from three during this series. With less Jodie Meeks and Andre Iguodala‘s struggles, this isn’t surprising.
But the problem isn’t just hitting the shots: it’s creating them in the first place. With our current starting five, there are 2 above average shooters, and one has an Achilles injury that’s affecting his shot (Iguodala). The other is the primary ball handler, Jrue Holiday. In other words, there’s almost no one to actually take good, open three pointers on the court unless we change our approach. Evan Turner‘s starting kind of eliminates the three point shooting, but with a change in approach it can also be the solution. If he is given more responsibility in creating offense, that could help guys like Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams for high percentage looks. He naturally draws defenders when he gets into the paint – dribble penetration is the best way to create open shots.
The Bulls are hitting 38%, by the way. They do have better shooters.
4. Thaddeus Young
If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound? Moreover, if you’re a scorer that hasn’t scored much, do you have a purpose?
So is the story of Thaddeus Young. Certainly, Young can impact the game in other ways, but when the Bulls (and coach Thibodeau) are working to keep him in check, he’s all but useless. The trend in the last few games is that Young would be countered by Gibson, with the Bulls all but abandoning the pick and roll in favor of drilling the ball into the post on Young’s defender. It’s worked too. Young gives up size in the post to all of Chicago’s bigs. And on the other end, Gibson has neutralized his offense. So Young’s been pretty much useless the past two games.
Doug will try to put him in position to succeed, that much I know. But it’s hard to find him a spot to succeed when the Bulls know exactly how to expose him.
5. Is this a must win?
Technically, no. It’s not a must-win until you are up against elimination. But it might as well be: per something I saw recently (I wish I could give credit but I forget where I saw it) the home team wins more than 80% of Game 7’s. So yeah, it might as well be a must-win. The Sixers have to play like their season is on the line.