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76ers Forced to Recover from Heat Loss by Visiting Bulls: A Fan’s Preview
The Philadelphia 76ers have to feel deflated after facing the Miami Heat on Mar. 16. Yet again, Sixers fans like myself learned that the Heat are still head and shoulders beyond them in every way - this time because of a 27 point halftime deficit and a foiled comeback. As such, the Sixers could use a nice game against an easier opponent to bounce back - but they're facing the Chicago Bulls instead.
As if losing to Miami isn't tough enough, Philadelphia has to go right to Chicago on Mar. 17. What's more, the Bulls still actually have a better record than the Heat, so beating them in Chicago should be even more unlikely for the Sixers.
However, Philadelphia has had far better luck facing Chicago than Miami. For one thing, the Sixers have actually beaten the Bulls once, doing it quite convincingly on Feb. 1 - although there haven't been many big wins like that since then. The Sixers also came close to beating the Bulls a second time on Mar. 4, yet Derrick Rose took control in the final minutes.
It is funny that Philadelphia seems far more equipped to beat the best team in the NBA than it is to beat the second best. Of course, given who the Heat are and how they manhandled the Bulls in last year's Eastern Conference finals, everyone still considers Miami a bigger championship favorite. The Bulls won't be able to prove otherwise until a conference finals rematch, although they did just defeat the Heat on Mar. 14 without Rose in the lineup.
Rose didn't come back on Mar. 16 and Chicago had far less luck, losing to a Portland Trail Blazers that just had a major overhaul. Maybe the Sixers will get lucky and Rose won't come back for this game either - and he certainly isn't in any rush. After all, the Bulls have their division all but wrapped up and they only have to worry about getting the No. 1 playoff seed. With a 2 1/2 game lead over Miami, Chicago can afford to keep Rose on the bench and/or coast through a few games.
Still, the Heat paid the price for thinking the Bulls would be easy prey without their MVP. The Sixers could certainly pay as well, given their troubles with most any elite opponent. At the least, Chicago doesn't have the same hold on Philadelphia that Miami has, so perhaps not having Rose or having him at less than full strength will hurt the Bulls here.
Either way, it would be the best case scenario for the Sixers to escape this killer two-game stretch with a split. It would be even nicer if that split included a long overdue win over the Heat, but salvaging something against the Bulls would be nice too.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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