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:
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:
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.