The Philadelphia 76ers made a strong late comeback to defeat the Chicago Bulls in Game 3 of their first-round NBA playoff series.
The Chicago Bulls must have done a nice job reviewing the tape of Game 2. They didn’t allow the Sixers to continue the running game they had working at full tilt in that game. The Bulls outrebounded the Sixers 23-18 in the first half, kept the Sixers out of the paint and forced them to play a half-court game. The Sixers were forced to take a lot of three-point shots where they were an horrific one for ten. Elton Brand had no points and no rebounds. Somehow the half ended with the Sixers ahead 40-39.
The trend continued into the third period. The half-court game involved the Bulls running plays which ended with a player driving to the basket. The Sixers ran plays which ended with a player throwing up a long shot to beat the buzzer. The Bulls just gradually pulled away and built up a comfortable lead.
But at 3:20 left in the third, a nifty bounce pass in traffic from Andre Iguodala to Evan Turner resulted in a fast break dunk, a three-point play and a slicing of the Bulls lead to four points. Maybe that would be the spark that the Sixers needed? However on the Bulls’ next trip down the court the Sixers’ defense broke down and left Taj Gibson alone for a return slam. The Bulls closed out the third period with a nine-point lead.
Chicago extended the lead to 67-53 early in the fourth quarter on a Richard Hamilton three pointer and the game appeared to be decided. But the Sixers got a little life when Joakim Noah was not able to return from an earlier ankle sprain. Spencer Hawes cut the Bulls lead to five at 5:45 with an inside move. Later he gave the Sixers a 72-71 lead on a jumper from the corner and they held that lead to the end.
Hawes finished with 21 points and nine rebounds. The Sixers finished the game with an incredible 26-7 run to win it.
The Associated Press is reporting (hat tip to FoxSports) that Noah will likely miss the Game 4 due to his ankle injury. So the Sixers’ chance of a monster upset of the top seed is looking good.