By Nick Shepkowski-
(CBS) It was just after 8 PM Tuesday night at United Center and things were looking more than OK for the Bulls. They had a game two halftime lead of 55-47 on the Philadelphia 76ers and finished the half on an 18-11 run. Just 24 minutes from a 2-0 lead in the best of seven series, Joakim Noah and John Lucas III paced the Bulls with a combined 25 first half points. Then something uncharacteristic for the Bulls happened as both the offense and defense went away in what amounted in an embarrassing showing, being outscored 36-14 in the third quarter.
“I thought the third quarter was the game,” Tom Thibodeau said after the loss, “It was 62-37 in the second half – we have to come back with a lot more fight.”
The Bulls will look to regain control when the series shifts to Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Friday night in the pivotal game three matchup. As for Tuesday night’s game though, nothing seemed to go as planned for the Bulls as their offense was out of rhythm from the opening possession of the second half. It was so bad in fact, the defense suffered because of it’s poor play, allowing Philadelphia to manufacture several fast-break opportunities off of loose balls and missed rebound opportunities. While Thibodeau went in the direction of questioning how much fight his team showed, Kyle Korver made it clear he felt it was a team loss.
“We weren’t there for each other,” Korver said, “(We) Can’t let guys go one-on-one, we’ve got to be there to help.”
Korver was likely referring to CJ Watson and John Lucas III who were major reasons why 76ers guard Jrue Holiday finished with a game-high 26 points.
“He’s (Holiday) tough when he gets his jump shot going,” Watson said, “We’ve got to play better and I’ve got to guard him better.”
Most have been quick to point out how important Derrick Rose is to the Bulls offense functioning efficiently but not much has been made of his value on defense as Holiday was held to just an 16.3 points per game average in the three games Rose played against him this season.
“We didn’t play well defensively, we didn’t play well offensively” Joakim Noah said of the second half effort, “We got our asses kicked”.
Despite finishing with a game high 21 points for the Bulls, Noah was part of the blame for the discrepincy in scoring in the paint, a category the Bulls were outdone in Tuesday night by a total of 52-32, an unacceptable number and one that speaks volumes of the fast breaks that finished in slam dunks and layups for the 76ers.
There are ways to overcome bad shooting nights; getting to the free throw line and playing good defense are just a couple of those. Unfortunately for the Bulls they earned just 10 points at the line and allowed the 76ers to shoot nearly 60% from the floor.
Although I’m not putting a ton of stock into the woeful showing by the Bulls on Tuesday, dropping a second straight game in the best of seven series would put things in a dangerous situation.
In addition to covering the Bulls for 670TheScore.com, Nick Shepkowski is the associate producer on The McNeil and Spiegel Show, weekdays 9am-1pm on 670 The Score. You can follow Nick on Twitter at @Shep670.