The Philadelphia 76ers entered the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday afternoon looking to take a hold of their first-round playoff series, having won back-to-back games to take a 2-1 series lead. With Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose both out, it seemed that the Sixers were being given all the tools to win the series and advance.
The first twelve minutes saw 76ers domination. They had an early ten-point lead when a red-hot Spencer Hawes sunk an 18-footer with five minutes to go, his fourth field goal of the period. Philadelphia led by nine, 24-15, thanks to two late Thaddeus Young free throws. There was a clear difference with Noah out, with Philadelphia finally getting some rebounds and second-chance opportunities.
The second quarter, however, belonged to the visiting Bulls. Taj Gibson went into beast-mode, scoring twelve of the Bulls first 14 points as they cut the lead to one five minutes in. Carlos Boozer made a jumper with 37 seconds left to give the Bulls their first lead, 42-41, capping a 6-2 Bulls run. A corner three-pointer from Spencer Hawes, however, gave the Sixers a two-point edge at the half, 44-42.
The Bulls put a scare into the Sixers in the third. Neither team scored in the first two minutes, but Richard Hamilton made a fast break pull-up jumper from 17 feet to give the Bulls a 51-48 lead, forcing Doug Collins to take a timeout.
Moments later, a struggling C.J. Watson connected on his only three-ball of the game to give the Bulls a 56-50 lead. The Sixers came right back to take the lead, thanks to an Andre Iguodala wing three-pointer to send the crowd back into a frenzy. After trading buckets for two or three minutes, the Sixers led, 64-63, going into the final 12 minutes of play.
The Sixers kept Chicago at bay throughout the fourth. Jrue Holiday had been shooting 4/19 FG and 0/5 3-PT, but he made the two biggest shots of his career on two straight three-pointer late. With 4:13 remaining, Jrue came off a screen and sunk a fade-away 27-foot, pushing the Sixers’ lead to 4. On the next possession, he stepped into a 28-footer and buried it, giving the Sixers a 80-73 advantage. With 48 seconds, and the Bulls down four, Boozer lost the ball out of bounds. Andre Iguodala then iced the game with a pair of clutch free throws.
Despite another ugly offensive performance, the Sixers pull out another close victory, 89-82, thanks to tenacious defense and a better paint presence. They shot under 40% for the second straight game.
Spencer Hawes was the catalyst for the win, going 9-11 from the field and scoring 22 points. Jrue Holiday, even though he only went 7-23 FG, scored 20 points, grabbed 8 boards, and dished out six assists. Iguodala had 14 points and 12 rebounds.
However, they lead 3-1 in the series and are just one win away from an upset of the 1 seed. But, with our horrible history, no series is over until the buzzer sounds and the Sixers are winning. Game 5 is in Chicago, on Wednesday. The tip is at 9:30.