Reality sets in as Sixers blow out Rose-less Bulls to square series
After winning Game 1, Chicago looked like a different team in its Game 2 defeat
Jrue Holiday and new starter Evan Turner torched the Bulls, who struggled on D
Chicago needs better production from its other starters, namely Carlos Boozer
Yes, Chicago, things have changed with Derrick Rose out for the season. You can claim the goal is still a championship. You can say each player just needs to contribute a little more to make that happen. But when you look at Philadelphia's 109-92 victory Tuesday night, you're fooling yourself if you don't see a completely different first-round series. These weren't the same Bulls who tied for the league's best record while Rose missed 26 games with five different injuries. These weren't the Bulls who used their deep bench to weather the loss of several other key players throughout the regular season. These Bulls looked lost offensively and had no answers defensively as Philadelphia attacked in transition, on the boards and at the rim while tying the series 1-1 and significantly altering the Bulls' playoff image.
The Sixers haven't had a superstar to lead them this season, but Jrue Holiday sure looked the part in Game 2. It shouldn't come as a complete surprise -- Holiday had 30 points in the Sixers' final regular-season meeting with the Bulls, helping him average 21 overall in the three regular-season meetings. But Tuesday's performance was among the biggest of his career. Holiday brought needed aggression to the 76ers' offense, attacking the basket regularly and getting four of his 11 shots on layups, with a fifth on an easy four-foot jumper. He missed only four shots while playing with the type of aggression the Sixers needed in Game 1, when the offense often lacked movement and Philadelphia struggled to find anyone to lead the team. Holiday, at least for a night, filled that need spectacularly.
Doug Collins moved guard Evan Turner into the starting lineup for Game 2 because he was desperate for a playmaker. And after a 19-point night in his hometown, Turner made the move look brilliant. He hit 8 of 15 shots, added seven rebounds and six assists and -- along with Holiday -- turned Philadelphia's backcourt into its greatest strength in Game 2. And while Philly took control of the game by scoring 11 of its 36 third-quarter points off fast breaks, Turner kept the offense producing consistently by scoring all 11 of his points in the quarter in half-court sets with a layup and three mid-range jumpers. It was an enormous upgrade over Jodie Meeks, who has hardly been seen in this series while the inconsistent Turner has become one of Philly's steadiest hands.
While Rose's absence had an obvious effect on Chicago's offensive woes, less evident was the effect it had on Philadelphia's ability to combat the Bulls on the boards. Chicago dominated the paint in Saturday's opener, holding a 47-38 rebounding edge and limiting the Sixers to one-shot possessions. But part of that dominance came because Philadelphia had to commit multiple bodies to contain Rose. Without having to commit so many defenders to a single player in Game 2, Philadelphia kept more defenders near the basket and out-rebounded Chicago 31-22 on the defensive glass, which changed the Sixers' offensive attack. The rebounds opened up Philly's transition game, which gave the Sixers the firepower to blow open the game in the second half. The 76ers scored 25 points off fast breaks on Tuesday, including 11 in the third quarter when Philadelphia took control of the game.
Chicago's offense was undoubtedly going to be different without Derrick Rose. But the defense? As surprising as it was to see the attacking, confident Bulls offense of Saturday turn into a sputtering, frustrated unit three days later, that had to be expected once Rose was lost for the season. But the defense was supposed to bail them out, and it vanished in the second half of Game 2. While you could anticipate players like Richard Hamilton and Kyle Korver would be less effective without Rose pulling off their defenders and kicking out to them for wide-open shots, his loss shouldn't be responsible for some of the most astounding second-half numbers you'll see in these playoffs: 62 points allowed, 64 percent shooting, and even a 13-point fourth quarter from Philly's Lou Williams, who had scored 13 points in the series' previous seven quarters combined. Those are the numbers that will haunt the Bulls for the next couple days.
If you're going to question Chicago's offense, though, the questions should start with Carlos Boozer. With Rose out, Boozer represented one of Chicago's best options for consistent production. Philadelphia's frontcourt didn't play physical in Game 1, so Boozer should've been capable of dominating. So how did he respond to his team's moment of need? He turned himself into a face-up shooter. Eight of Boozer's 10 shot attempts came on mid-range attempts, while only two were in the post -- not the ratio you want from your power forward. Without Rose in the lineup, Boozer is one of options the Bulls need to rely on for consistent offense. But he took away that option for most of Tuesday's game by drifting away from the rim too often.