Two words: Jrue Holiday.
Holiday, the Sixers starting guard, went off in Game 2 as his squad took the game’s final score 109-92. This was no surprise to me whatsoever. As noted in my debut column for StS, I referenced Holiday’s importance with the Bulls’ Derrick Rose out with a torn ACL for the series going forward. I casually prophesied Jrue having a huge game. He did just that.
Jrue capped the night off with a sickening 11 for 15 shooting night that netted 26 points. (Drastically improving from his Game 1 score of 16 shooting under 50 percent from the field.)
However, Holiday wasn’t the only big story line of Game 2. Philly’s leading scorer, Lou Williams, erupted for 20 points off the bench in only 27 minutes of floor-time. Evan Turner, the 6’7″ versatile guard, also put up good numbers for the guys in red and blue. Evan totaled up 7 boards, 6 assists and 19 points to go along with his fairly solid +/- rate of +13 – which was only second on his team to Andre “Iggy” Iguodala. Iggy didn’t particularly have the game he’s capable of. The All-Star must elevate his game in order for the 76ers to take a lead in this series.
Chicago’s Joakim Noah had a good night with 21 points and 8 boards. Meanwhile, John Lucas showed promise off the bench as a spark-plug for the Bulls with seven made buckets to give him 15 points. (Sadly, that’s all I have to say about Chicago other than they need D-Rose, pronto.)
Now that this 1-8 Eastern conference match-up is on the location-swing, what must each team do to take a pivotal 2-1 series lead – as it is currently tied 1-1 – that could help decide the series?
On Philadelphia’s behalf they need to continue to run everything they do through Jrue Holiday. Holiday’s size and athleticsm is a real problem for the Bulls, as they have no one else that can guard him but D-Rose. (Derrick couldn’t guard anyone but my 78-year-old grandma at this point.) Yes, the Bulls have a great defensive stopper in Ronnie Brewer. But, Brewer is a little too pre-occupied with the likes of Philly’s Iggy and Evan Turner – both are great all-around players that are bigger than usual for their position.
Another thing Philly needs to do is to continue to develop their frontcourt as no one besides Elton Brand has proven to be any sort of factor. Lavoy Allen, the 76ers rookie big man, did play well in Game 2, but he needs to hold onto the groove in order to stick with Noah and Boozer. The Sixers also need to be more lenient with Jodie Meeks. The 6’4″, 210 pound shooting guard from Kentucky can flat-out score. In the playoffs, teams typically stick with an eight-man rotation. Meeks is currently ninth on the depth chart, therefore he only logged one minute of playing time in Game 2. His shooting/scoring ability can be yet another headache for the Black Shoes and Black Socks band.
For Chicago going forward, look up about a paragraph and a half and you will see my point made clear. THEY NEED DERRICK ROSE. They were able to skate by in the regular season without Rose with an 18-9 record – not bad, but hardly championship worthy.
The Bulls are seeing good things from Noah and Lucas as noted but need more from Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Rip Hamilton.
Chicago’s inability to make free throws in Game 2 severely hurt them.
Well… Think. If they would have made a realistic 16 out of 18 from the charity stripe rather than 10 for 18, we may have a game on our hands.
Free throws are a little but big thing, all ya gotta do is make it. It’s just you and the hoop. If the Bulls can’t take advantage of that then they can kiss this series goodbye and Philly will soar with flying colors.
Predictions in short:
Game 3 Score: 102-94, Philadelphia.
Look for this game to be hard-fought and competitive. Expect big numbers from the likes of Philly’s Holiday, Williams, Turner, and Brand. (With a hopeful bounce-back effort for Iggy.)