CHICAGO - With 4 minutes, 9 seconds remaining in the second quarter of Game 2 in Chicago's United Center, 76ers coach Doug Collins was leaping off the bench and onto the court to pull center Spencer Hawes away from an official after getting whistled for his third personal foul.
Not long after Hawes' foul, the Bulls were heading to the locker room with an eight-point lead and seemingly a stranglehold on a lead of two games to none in their best-of-seven series.
After allowing continuous wide-open shots to end that second quarter, in which Chicago scored on each of its last 11 possessions, adjustments were made in the locker room, and a new attitude arose. What followed was a 36-14 third-quarter scoring advantage for the Sixers, and then it was assistant coach Brian James' turn to hop off the bench, only he was fist-pumping the team's effort.
The turnaround at the Madhouse on Madison was about as expected as Derrick Rose's season-ending torn knee ligmament. Up to that point in Game 2, the defense seemed to have no answer for the dribble and penetration play of John Lucas III. Joakim Noah appeared to have some infectious disease, because no Sixers defender seemed to want to get close, and Chicago again owned the backboards.
It all led to an eight-point halftime lead and thoughts that the loss of Rose in Game 1 wouldn't be as devastating to the Bulls as originally thought.
The Sixers, however, decided to come out and have, as Collins described, "as good of a quarter as I've seen my team play in the time that I've been here."
The Sixers shot 15 for 22 (68.2 percent) and held Chicago to 5-for-20 (25 percent) shooting. They outrebounded the Bulls by 14-5. They scored all of the 11 fastbreak points in the quarter and won the battle in the paint by 14-2. It all led to a 36-14 scoring advantage, which built the lead to 83-69 and pretty much sealed the series at a game apiece.
Game 3 is Friday at 8 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center.
"It was one of those things where we kind of let our offense affect our defense," said Bulls guard Richard Hamilton, who finished with 10 points. "We missed a couple of shots that we usually make and things like that. We kind of let it affect our defense. They got up and down the court and got easy baskets in transition."
The numbers speak for themselves, but there was something different about the team that emerged in the second half. It was a look of confidence, a kind of knowing appearance that seemed to become more prominent when Jrue Holiday, who scored a game-high 26 points, deposited a 19-foot jumper to begin the second half.
The variety of scoring in that decisive third quarter had to be a welcome sight for Collins and his staff. Holiday hit jumpers, while Evan Turner (19 points) drove the lane, embraced contact, and hit midrange shots.
One quarter, obviously, doesn't make a series. But those 12 minutes the Sixers put together Tuesday sure made things a lot more interesting.