Bulls noticing Sixers' grit
May 07, 2012 (Menafn - The Philadelphia Inquirer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --AS THEY pushed their way to the top seed in the NBA's Eastern Conference for the second season in a row, the Chicago Bulls did so in great part by winning the hustle plays, usually exhibiting the willingness to do what their opposition would not.
But as they stand at the brink of elimination following an 89-82 loss Sunday at Wells Fargo Center that gave the Sixers a 3-1 lead in the series with a chance to close out the Bulls on Tuesday in Chicago, it is the Bulls who are noticing the grit of the 76ers now.
"They are a tough team," said Bulls reserve power forward Taj Gibson. "They have a lot of guys that come off the bench and play tough. They know their roles and they play hard late. In the last couple games it has come down to the fourth quarter and they have shown that they have the toughness and the will to overcome."
Gibson was one of the players the Bulls needed to step on Sunday as they were missing starters Derrick Rose (torn ACL) and Joakim Noah (sprained ankle). Gibson was referring not only to Sunday's fourth quarter but also to a crucial stretch of the fourth quarter in Game 3. In that game, the Sixers overcame a 14-point fourth-quarter Chicago lead by at one point forcing the Bulls to miss 10 consecutive shots.
On Sunday, the Sixers' defense again swayed the outcome, namely by forcing the Bulls into five turnovers that resulted in 11 points for the Sixers. One of those turnovers -- lost by C.J. Watson -- resulted in the second of two back-to-back three-pointers by the Sixers' Jrue Holiday. Those turned what had been a 74-73 game into an 80-73 Sixers advantage.
The Bulls had every reason to blame themselves for letting their big fourth-quarter lead slip away in Game 3. And while they never led in the fourth quarter Sunday, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said that it was the Sixers' desire to do the things at crucial moments in the game that proved to be the difference.
In fairness to the Bulls, this was not the team they expected to field in these playoffs. No team can sustain losing its two top players -- take LeBron James and Dwyane Wade off Miami, and Chris Bosh is in Toronto all over again -- and be expected to still produce the same results.
"It's tough, but you can't feel sorry for yourself," Gibson said. "Nobody is going to care. This is the NBA. Games are won on how tough you are mentally and physically. We've just got to keep fighting. Every game in the playoffs is going to come down to one or two possessions. It all comes down to will and who wants it more. We have got to have more will and toughness."
Contact John N. Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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