The Philadelphia 76ers added intrigue to their series with the Chicago Bulls by blowing the top seed out in Game 2 on May 1. However, Sixers fans like myself still have to take into account that it was the Bulls' first game since Derrick Rose's season-ending injury. That is a handy excuse for why Chicago lost Game 2 and why it might not win the championship, yet it isn't a handy excuse for losing this series.
As such, it is easy to expect/fear that the Game 2 victory was a fluke and just the wake-up call that the Bulls needed. Therefore, the best way to prove that Philadelphia is a real threat in this series is to take Game 3 at home on May 4 and keep Chicago from waking up.
While Rose's injury made a difference, the Sixers' efficient shooting and second-half dominance played its part as well in Game 2. Yet expecting Philadelphia to take control like that in Game 3 might be unrealistic. Given that the Sixers were blown out in Game 1 until Rose got injured and then blew the Bulls out in Game 2, can they win with something in between?
To actually survive this series, Philadelphia needs to prove itself for more than just a half of basketball. It also can't count on Chicago sleepwalking without Rose forever, since being even at 1-1 and losing home court advantage may have sent too strong of a message. But while the Bulls will still struggle without him, they can afford to be only a little iffy and win, although the Sixers don't have that margin for error.
Philadelphia needed to start out utterly perfect in the second half to start choking the life out of a stunned Chicago squad. However, perfect halves are bound to be in shorter supply as the series goes on. The Sixers may need to win ugly in a tight game or two, even though winning that way has eluded them for much of the season.
If they can prevail like that, or in any other way in Game 3, it will help prove that the Bulls can't just wake up at a moment's notice. Everyone assumed that the Sixers were so inferior, even with Rose gone, that the Bulls could flip the switch and get through before getting knocked off by a better team. But a Game 3 upset and a 2-1 Philadelphia series lead will make that much harder to believe.
If the Bulls bounce back, then Game 2 was most likely a fluke and there's a good chance things will revert back to normal for both teams. But if the Sixers still have more in them and can take advantage of their new found fortune, then perhaps Game 2 was less of a fluke and will look more like a harbinger for things to come.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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