Tomorrow night, the Bulls and 76ers will face off against each other in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series. The Bulls took Game 1 (while losing Derrick Rose), and the 76ers won game 2.
Game 1 for the Bulls went they way that they wanted it to go for the most part. They dominated the boards and built themselves a comfortable lead in the second half that they were able to ride all the way to the final buzzer. Obviously, the down side to Game 1 was the loss of Derrick Rose to a torn, left ACL.
Game 2 was the exact opposite of what us Bulls fans have gotten used to seeing the past 2 seasons. After playing a decent first half, the Bulls came out flat in the third quarter, especially on defense, and Philadelphia ran away with the lead to tie the series at 1 apiece. This was one of the worst defensive performances of the year for the Bulls, without a doubt.
Heading into Friday night’s Game 3, the Bulls need to get back to the style of play that got them to 50 wins this season, and a share of the best record in the NBA.
The Bulls have a reasonable size advantage down low on the 76ers, and they need to make use of it. Game 2 was a rare instance where the Bulls have been out-rebounded this season. Philadelphia totaled 38 rebounds, while the Bulls only had 32. Noah, Boozer, Gibson, and Asik need to step it up in Game 3 and use their size to their advantage and win the rebounding battle. The Bulls thrive on second chance points, so getting as many rebounds as possible, especially on offense, will give them an advantage in the game.
Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng HAVE to show up for Game 3. These two combined only managed to get 17 points in Game 2, which is not the recipe for a victory. With Derrick Rose now gone for the remainder of the playoffs, Boozer and Deng are the Bulls’ best 2 offensive options in their starting lineup, and they have to step up their game from here on out.
Jrue Holiday. Someone needs to contain him. He was the heartbeat of the 76ers offense for much of Game 2, and he single-handedly kept Philadelphia in the game during the first half. Whether it is permanently placing Deng on Holiday, or double teaming Holiday when he has the ball, the Bulls need to limit his effectiveness in this series and make someone else step up for the 76ers.
Fast break points for Philadelphia KILLED the Bulls in Game 2. It seemed like after each defensive rebound by the Sixers, they had at least two guys breaking up court creating 2 on 1/3 on 1 breaks that lead to a large portion of their overall point total. The Bulls are going to have to really make an effort to get back on defense and not allow the 76ers to get too many fast break points.
I know that I have just listed a number of things that the Bulls need to improve on heading into Game 3, but they are more than capable of doing so. It’s how they ended the last 2 regular seasons as the number 1 team in the NBA. Assuming that they can get back to playing the way that they did for each of the last 2 regular seasons (yes, even without Rose), they should win Game 3, and this series.
Thanks for reading.