Bulls vs. Sixers, 2012 NBA Playoffs: A review of the teams' battles over two seasons

The Bulls beat the 76ers in two of their three 2011-12 meetings. But it shouldn't be underweighed that
they lost two of three last season, because the two teams have pretty much stayed the same.

Philly is on the shortlist of teams which have consistently frustrated the Bulls over the last 16 months. After a pre-Christmas blowout in 2010, the Bulls lost to these Sixers in their next three meetings. The Bulls have won the last two, but neither have been dominating showings.

Here are the scoring logs of their six meetings during the teams' new era under their current head coaches, Tom Thibodeau and Doug Collins:

Team Opponent
Date Opp Result MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% PTS FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% PTS
2012-03-17 PHI W 89-80 240 31 77 .403 6 21 .286 21 31 .677 89 33 79 .418 3 13 .231 11 15 .733 80
2012-03-04 @ PHI W 96-91 240 39 82 .476 7 16 .438 11 16 .688 96 38 97 .392 1 11 .091 14 17 .824 91
2012-02-01 @ PHI L 82-98 240 32 74 .432 7 17 .412 11 16 .688 82 40 84 .476 4 11 .364 14 19 .737 98
2011-03-28 PHI L 85-97 240 33 80 .413 1 9 .111 18 30 .600 85 39 86 .453 4 14 .286 15 21 .714 97
2011-01-07 @ PHI L 99-105 240 38 75 .507 3 15 .200 20 26 .769 99 40 71 .563 6 16 .375 19 28 .679 105
2010-12-21 PHI W 121-76 240 49 76 .645 6 11 .545 17 21 .810 121 28 80 .350 2 15 .133 18 23 .783 76
Generated 4/27/2012.

The biggest difference between the teams of both seasons is the Bulls becoming one of the most efficient 3-point shooting teams in the league. But Philly's done well at attacking the arch, as one of the better teams at only allowing the Bulls to get up 3s when out of need instead of want.

It's no coincidence that that the Sixers have done such an extraordinay job making at making the Bulls look so beatable when you see the Bulls have struggled so often to dominate the boards and control the turnover game. No matter how well the Bulls rotate and attempt to throw their siz advantage at the Sixers, Philly's been one of the better teams in the league at throwing five guys at the Bulls on both ends from possession-to-possession (note: the turnover column notes how many more the Bulls have committed in each game:

Differences
Date Opp Result ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF
2012-03-17 PHI W 89-80 +8 +6 +14 -1 -2 +7 +2 -9
2012-03-04 @ PHI W 96-91 -9 +4 -5 -5 -3 +2 +8 +3
2012-02-01 @ PHI L 82-98 -3 -3 -6 -4 -5 +1 +7 +1
2011-03-28 PHI L 85-97 +1 -3 -2 -6 -1 +2 +3 0
2011-01-07 @ PHI L 99-105 +3 +1 +4 0 +1 +1 +1 +4
2010-12-21 PHI W 121-76 -10 +13 +3 +19 +4 +7 -6 +2
Generated 4/27/2012.

In the one game where the Bulls shot well over their last five meetings, they turned the ball over at a ridiculous rate and the Sixers made up for their awful shooting by using offensive rebounding elongating possessions. In the Bulls' most recent win over Philly, they dominated the glass and got to the free throw line, but couldn't find a bucket.

The Sixers have been able to make the Bulls struggle because they're a team that bases so much of its formula for success on the intangible of hustle that when one looks at those rebounds, turnovers, and fastbreak point data, the hustle becomes incredibly tangible. Add that the offensive formula of high-volume ball movement is the best counter for Thibs' defensive formula and there's the dynamic of playing an effective game of keep away and draining the Bulls energy.

The fact is that the Bulls generally don't get that hustle matched. The Sixers' hustle is why people are reluctant to call this series an easy walk-through for the Bulls. Even people calling it "Bulls in five" can't avoid the qualifier of "hard fought" in the same sentence.

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