Basketball or steel-cage match? Watch enough of this ugly first-round series between the Sixers and Bulls, and you might not know the difference.
The depleted Bulls are trying to turn this series into a backyard brawl. They’re packing defenders into the paint, throwing elbows on the sideline and pushing the Sixers off their spots. In Tuesday’s Game 5 loss, the Sixers managed just 26 points in the first half. If they’re going to avoid blowing a 3-1 lead, they’ll need to get back to basketball.
“We’re not as physical a team as they are. For us to come out and say we’re going to get in there and play smash-mouth, that’s not what we have to do,” coach Doug Collins said yesterday after a light practice. “We have to use our speed and our quickness, and let that negate their strength and their power.”
That’s easier said than done. The Bulls had the No. 1 defense in the league in the regular season and are focusing on defense more without Derrick Rose (knee). Joakim Noah (ankle) appears headed for another game-time call.
“We just have to keep playing through all the fouls, play through all the aggressiveness,” Thaddeus Young said. “It’s the playoffs, so you just gotta man up.”
The Sixers are 3-1 against the Bulls at the Wells Fargo Center this year, including big wins in Games 3 and 4 of this series.
“You have to be hungrier,” Elton Brand said. “This is what we fought all season for. To be on our home court, with our home fans, for a closeout game.”