No Derrick Rose. No Joakim Noah. For the Philadelphia 76ers, that meant one thing in Game 4: no problem. The Sixers took advantage of the injury-depleted Bulls and took a 3-1 series lead in their 89-82 victory in front of a home crowd that could smell the blood in the water.
Without Joakim Noah in the interior for Chicago, Spencer Hawes had another productive game, leading the Sixers with 22 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Jrue Holiday, who struggled with his shot for the majority of the game, hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to extend a one point lead to seven. Carlos Boozer led the Bulls with 23 points and 11 rebounds and although C.J. Watson finally had a good offensive game with 17 points, six rebounds and 4 assists, the Bulls still looked out of place without two of their leaders on the floor. Luol Deng once again had a mediocre night and only scored 11 points, which was made even worse by Richard Hamilton’s seven-point performance. Omer Asik got the start with Noah sitting out, but he looked completely clueless as a defender and Hawes ate him up. Hawes hasn’t produced for the Sixers in months, so it’s a guarantee that against a quality center in the next round, he will sink back down to the level of production he saw against Joakim Noah. Taj Gibson provided a crucial boost for Chicago in the first half and finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, but no Rose, no Noah and an unimpressive Deng really gave the Bulls no chance on the road.
At this point, it would be a miracle for Chicago to win this series. The entire team and the city of Chicago is in a state of shock after the events that have transpired in the past week and how fast their chances of winning a championship have evaporated. They might get a win at home in Game 5 to keep their fans from completely keeling over, but Philly has all the momentum right now and if Noah can’t go again, Hawes will kill the Bulls on the inside just like he has in the past five quarters with Chicago’s center sidelined. Tom Thibodeau hasn’t been able to rally the troops with all these disheartening injuries and the Sixers have taken advantage of Chicago’s weaknesses and injury problems as any playoff team should. But Atlanta and Boston should have no problem in the second round revealing this mediocre Philly team for what it is.
Andre Iguodala, Holiday and Hawes all looked impressive today in Philly’s Game 4 win. Evan Turner and Lou Williams have looked like quality scorers ever since Game 2. But up against an actual contender with a healthy starting lineup? The Sixers don’t stand a chance. Don’t forget how easily Chicago dismantled this team in Game 1 with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah actually on the court. Doug Collins has done a good job preaching defense to his young team and he’s done what he’s needed to by keeping his team motivated to move toward pulling this upset off. But Philadelphia can’t score enough points to contend with anyone else in the East, especially against the defensively-sound Boston Celtics, who will likely be their opponent in the next round.