(Sports Network) - If you take the best perimeter player and the top interior
threat off any NBA club it's going to have problems. Even the NBA's No. 1
overall seed, the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls, minus Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, return home on the brink of
elimination as they get set to host the upstart Philadelphia 76ers in Game 5
of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Jrue Holiday overcame an ugly start to score 10 of his 20 points, including n
back-to- back threes late in the fourth quarter, Sunday as the Sixers beat the
Bulls, 89-82, to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the set.
It would be unfair to Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls to ignore that the Sixers
have won three straight in the set since Chicago lost its star point guard
Rose to a torn ACL late in Game 1. It's also hard to dismiss that talented
center Noah was in street clothes during Game 4 with a rather large, bulky
walking boot after suffering a badly sprained left ankle in the previous
That said, Chicago still thought it had enough pieces to beat a flawed
Philadelphia team and is instead looking at the rather ominous 3-1 hole.
"Things change so quickly," Sixers coach Doug Collins said after his latest
win. "Joakim Noah the other day steps on an ankle. We saw Derrick Rose blow
out a knee. You've got to take care of your business."
So far the Sixers have.
Last Friday all the talk was about Evan Turner. Less than 48 hours later it
was Jrue Holiday's turn.
It's rare to write about someone that comes out of the gate 1-for-14 from the
floor. To his credit, however, Holiday never lost his confidence even after
putting up a 1- for-13 performance in the opening half and misfiring on his
first opportunity after intermission.
Something finally clicked for the UCLA product and he got one to go, setting
off a 6-of-9 finish with 10 points in the fourth quarter, including the
monstrous back-to-back treys that turned a precarious one-point Sixers lead
into a seven-point cushion with 3 1/2 minutes to go.
"The guy I'm really proud of today is Jrue Holiday," said Collins. "He's got a
coach who's got no conscience when it comes to shooting, and it's one thing
I've tried to impart with our team is, if you've got a shot, you've got to
"Jrue was 0-for-the-world and hit two huge threes to give us a little bit of a
cushion. That's the kind of growth and maturity I love to see from my young
guys. Don't fear the consequences. We always talk about it, if you miss, you
Holiday in turn lauded his coach for sticking with him through an awful
"It was really big," said Holiday when asked about Collins' confidence in him
"Coach Collins has a lot to do with that [his confidence]. He tells me every
game that if I'm not shooting well to keep on shooting. He was a scorer so he
understands but I just came down the stretch and hit some big shots."
While Holiday punctuated the win, Spencer Hawes gave the Sixers a kick with 17
of his 22 points in the first half. They included a three-pointer the 7-foot-1
center knocked down in the final seconds of the half.
Andre Iguodala was the only other Philly player to score in double digits with
14 points and the Sixers shot under 40 percent.
Carlos Boozer had 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead Chicago, C.J. Watson got
17 points starting for Rose again and Taj Gibson scored 14 off the bench with
With Philadelphia now on the verge on the rare one-eight upset, joining the
1994 Nuggets (over Seattle), 1999 Knicks (over Miami also in a lockout
shortened season), 2007 Warriors (over Dallas) and last year's Grizzlies
(over the Spurs), it's Holiday, who is still just 21 years old, that has taken
the lead for the Sixers, pacing the team at 19.8 points per game in the
"Well, he's tough," Thibodeau said when asked about his lead antagonist these
days. "I though [C.J. Watson] played him well, and Holiday has the ability to
make tough shots. He's clever with the dribble and you have to rely on your
A 3-1 advantage is nice but there is still work to be done for the Sixers and
Holiday seems ready for the task ahead.
"This is new for me, this is my first time experiencing this and I'm excited,"
Holiday said. "But next game we need to play like it's Game 7. We have to play
like our backs our against the wall."
Collins agrees and was already trying to tattoo that thought process on the
rest of his young team.
"Game 5 has to be as important to us as it is for the Bulls," Collins said.
"You don't give away playoff games. You can't do that. You've got to take care
of your business. A closeout game is the hardest game to win in sports. We've
got to go into Chicago with the idea that we've got to get that win."
These two rivals have met in postseason twice before, in the East semifinals
in back-to-back years (1990 and '91) during the Michael Jordan-era with
Chicago taking both sets 4-1.
Game 6, if necessary, is set for Thursday back in Philadelphia.
The Sports Network