I know, John Lucas...JUST missed him. (Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE)
We saw completely different halves in this game, their first in the now Derrick Rose-less postseason run. The Bulls were extremely hot hitting nine straight shots going into halftime up eight , only to see that next quarter go awry to the degree of a 36-14 deficit.
The Sixers pointed to rebounding as a key in the wake of game one, and figured that they had a chance of improvement without needing to focus their defensive attention on Rose. They definitely did improve, keeping even with the Bulls at a 24% OReb%. Especially with Rose out, this is a category the Bulls need to dominate. And with their frontcourt talent edge, they also have to do well with inside scoring. Joakim Noah did provide one of the best stretches of his career in the first half, going perfect from the field with 14 points on driving layups and tornadoes a-plenty. But after a hot start ended with a rejection by Elton Brand, Carlos Boozer stayed outside and went cold (4-10, 9 points), a subbed-in Taj Gibson was nearly identical, and the Bulls could not generate any other easy looks.
It's another gaping problem without Derrick Rose: when the Bulls offense tries to rely on diversity or ball-movement but it mostly just becomes contested jumpshooting. And then there's no bailout option on a given possession to get a higher-percentage chance. John Lucas had a great first-half stint with 11 of his 15 points but outside of that good things were hard to find on the perimeter. Luol Deng was completely locked-down by Andre Iguodala, and even his three made field goals were very difficult. The off-ball screen action to get Rip and Korver working were more easily snuffed out by a swarming Philly D.
And with the Sixers limiting the Bulls offensive rebounds, the Bulls often found themselves with 3-4 players still in the backcourt while Philly had already scored. While they seemed to be concentrated in that awful 2nd half, the Bulls did only have 8 turnovers. Yet they gave up 25 fast-break points. Some of that is awful transition defense, but it's also the drawback of an offensive strategy that relies so much on getting those second chances because the first ones are usually awful.
And while that running game is what really put things away, the Sixers guard trio of Jrue Holiday (26 points), Evan Turner (19), and Lou Williams (20) each took turns abusing the Bulls in the halfcourt as well. They looked to be a class above anyone the Bulls could throw at them, and that's beyond the moments late when Thibs was forced to go real small (basically, real-Lucas) to try and 3-bomb their way back: Holiday carved up Watson and Evan Turner was able to post-up Rip Hamilton (who again sat all 4th quarter), and all three specialized in being able to get into the midrange for shots without turning the ball over (3 total amongst them, all by Turner).
After hitting a single three all of game one, the Sixers raised that mark to a respectable 40%, but it wasn't as if that was some kind of flukey reason the Bulls guards were dominated tonight. They did hit a lot of 2-point jumpers, but that's the Sixers game, ultimately flawed as it is. What's more concerning is if it becomes the Bulls game without Rose. The best way to help their defensive effort in game three would be to make the Sixers take the ball out of the basket first, whether it's after the Bulls first or second chance.