Evan Turner wanted the Chicago Bulls for the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. He says it allows his Philadelphia 76ers to "dodge the tougher team." Well, Evan - who later backtracked by saying he meant no disrespect - sometimes you should be careful of what you wish for.
Turner and the Sixers drew the Bulls for the first round of the playoffs after a half-hearted - and I'm being generous there - effort Thursday night in Detroit, where they were blown out by the lowly Pistons. By losing, the Sixers avoided a first-round matchup with the Miami Heat, who they're 0-11 against the past two seasons.
So, can the Sixers beat the Bulls? Short answer: Nope. Read on to find out if they can even make the series competitive.
Series & TV Schedule: Game 1 - Saturday, April 28 in Chicago, 1 P.M. EST, TNT; Game 2 - May 1 in Chicago, 8 p.m. EST, TNT; Game 3 - May 4 in Philadelphia, 8 p.m. EST, ESPN; Game 4 - May 6 at Philadelphia, 1 p.m. EST, ABC; *Game 5 - at Chicago, TBD; Game 5 - May 8, TBD; *Game 6 - May 10 at Philadelphia, TBD; *Game 7 - May 12 in Chicago, TBD.
* If necessary.
The Sixers (35-31): The Sixers started off like gang busters - they were 15-6 at the end of January and at or near the top in most of the NBA's significant statistical categories. Everyone was talking about Philly and trying to figure out if they were contenders or pretenders. And then came February: The Sixers went 4-8 in a three-week span leading up to the All-Star break, and they've been a sub-.500 team since (15-17). Talk about peaking too soon. Despite having a little momentum from winning four of their last five games to hang onto a playoff berth, the 76ers, on paper, can't beat the Bulls. They can't consistently beat playoff-caliber teams (just 13-23 against teams .500 or better), and they don't play well on the road (16-17). To have any chance, Philly has to steal one of the first two games at the United Center, then win out at home. I don't see it happening.
Season Series: The Bulls took two of three from the Sixers, splitting a pair in Philly and winning at home.
PPG: Sixers 93.6 (22), Bulls 96.3 (18).
Offensive Efficiency: Sixers 101.7 (17), Bulls 104.5 (5).
FG%: Sixers 44.8 (15), Bulls 45.2 (12).
Assists: Sixers 22 (10), Bulls 23.1 (5).
Offensive rebounds: Sixers 10.7 (22), Bulls 13.9 (1).
PPG Allowed: Sixers 89.4 (3), Bulls 88.2 (1).
Defensive Efficiency: Sixers 96.6 (3), Bulls 95.1 (1).
FG% Allowed: Sixers 42.7 (t4), Bulls 42.1 (2).
Rebounds: Sixers 43.2 (7), Bulls 46.7 (1).
Key statistic: Defensive Efficiency, rebounding. Both teams play good defense but sometimes struggle on offense, and I'm expecting low-scoring games where the importance of rebounding and turnovers are magnified. The Bulls committed 17 turnovers, which lead to 29 points for Philly, and were outrebounded in their lone loss to the Sixers this season.
PG - Jrue Holiday (13.5 ppg, 4.5 apg, PER 14.7) vs. Derrick Rose (21.8 ppg, 7.9 apg, PER 23.1). Advantage: Bulls. I really like Holiday's game, but he's no match for a determined Rose.
SG - Jodie Meeks (8.4 ppg, PER 11.5) vs. Rip Hamilton (11.6, PER 13.3). Advantage: Bulls. Rip seems to be coming around at just the right time.
SF - Andre Iguodala (12.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, PER 17.6) vs. Luol Deng (15.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, PER 14.1). Advantage: 76ers. Iguodala was spectacular in the Sixers win over the Bulls earlier this season.
PF - Elton Brand (11 ppg, 7.2 rpg, PER 18.1) vs. Carlos Boozer (15 ppg, 8.5 rpg, PER 19.8). Advantage: Even. Brand always seems to play well against the Bulls.
C - Spencer Hawes (9.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg, PER 18.2) / Nikola Vucevic (5.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, PER 14.3) vs. Joakim Noah (10.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg, PER 19.6). Advantage: Bulls. Jo has been playing well lately; expect the Bulls to try and take advantage of this matchup.
The Bulls (50-16): The Bulls struggled down the stretch (8-5 in April) without MVP Derrick Rose, but still finished with a 50-win season and the top overall seed for the playoffs. It's really quite amazing when you consider the injuries the team has dealt with - starters Rose, Luol Deng, Rip Hamilton and key backup C.J. Watson. And so, the big question heading into the series is how healthy are the Bulls? Rose, hobbled by an assortment of injuries this season, looked good in the season finale against the Cavs, and Deng didn't appear to favor either his wrist or ribs. It is, in fact, as healthy and intact as the Bulls have been all season, and that's bad news for the Sixers, who didn't face Chicago at full strength during the regular season.
Prediction: There's no way the 76ers can beat the Bulls in a seven-game series - it's just not gonna happen. I'll go with the Bulls in five, no more than six, games. The series should be little more than a tune-up for a second-round matchup with the Indiana Pacers.
Sources: Sources: Chicago Bulls team page, Yahoo! Sports; Chicago Bulls Clubhouse, ESPN; Philadelphia 76ers team page, Yahoo! Sports; Philadelphia 76ers clubhouse, ESPN; NBA team statistics page, NBA.com; Hollinger Team Statistics, ESPN.
YCN featured sports contributor Steve Merritt is - for better or worse - a lifelong Chicago Bulls, Bears and Cubs fan. He's followed the Bulls since 1969, when he tuned in after bedtime on a cheap dime store radio tucked under his pillow.
- Sports & Recreation
- Philadelphia 76ers