CHICAGO - Doug Collins says his favorite aspect of coaching in the playoffs is the game within the games.
In the days, hours and minutes leading up to Tuesday's Game 2 against the Chicago Bulls in the United Center, the 76ers coach refused to reveal his starting lineup, not wanting anyone to know what, or if, changes would be made.
He made a couple, inserting Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes into the starting lineup, moving Jodie Meeks and Lavoy Allen to the bench.
The game within the games are a lot more fun when you get results like Collins and his team did Tuesday. They used a huge third-quarter burst to run past the Bulls, 109-92, to even the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series. The Sixers will host Chicago on Friday at 8 p.m.
Turner, spurred on by his hometown crowd that booed him on each of his possessions, bulled his way to 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists, while Allen, picking up minutes for a foul-plagued Hawes, chipped in 11 points and nine rebounds.
The Sixers' backcourt dominated the Bulls, who were without Derrick Rose, sitting out his first game after tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament late in Game 1.
Jrue Holiday, who made 10 of his first 11 shots, finished with a game-high 26 points and also dealt six assists. Lou Williams, who has struggled this season against the Bulls, poured in 20 and also dished six assists.
Trailing 55-47 at the half, the Sixers outscored Chicago by a remarkable 36-14 in the third, missing just seven of their 22 shots and holding the Bulls to 5-for-20 shooting. Most impressive was the burst of confidence that overcame the Sixers. They beat the Bulls to loose balls, made tough shots in the lane, and fought inside for every rebound. And when Andre Iguodala hit Williams for a backdoor alley-oop that resulted in a wicked two-handed slam, the momentum swing was palpable.
At the end of the third quarter, Sixers assistant coach Brian James leaped off the bench, pumping a fist at the excitement of his team holding the Bulls without a decent scoring chance in their last possession.
"The third quarter we played as good as I have ever seen our team play as long as I've been with them," said Collins. "They were active. We were a little upset at halftime. We gave them 11 straight scores to end the second quarter. We talked about we had 47 points and we should have been winning the game. Our defense let us down. Then we came out, we were active, we finished with 25 fastbreak points. We took care of the ball."
"I thought the third quarter was the game," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. "In the first 5 minutes they were into us. We took tough shots. We did not have floor balance. They got into the open floor and then crushed us off isolation. It was 62 to 37 in the second half. We have to come back with a lot more fight."
Fight is something the Sixers often seem to be a little short of. But Turner's aggressive play has added a dimension that has been lacking for quite some time.
"It's playoffs, everything intensifies so you've got to play with an edge," said Turner. "When you go to the rack you have to go more aggressive, meaner if you want to take a hit. You have to raise your level of intensity.
"It was key getting a win on the road; that was really important to us. Winning the rebounding battle [38-32], just showing that we can do it sets the standard on how we have to play to be victorious each game we play in."
With a few adjustments made by the coaching staff.
"It was a hostile environment," Elton Brand said of the locker room at halftime. "They kind of aced us with a few plays, which was a defensive effort that we could have stopped. We were disappointed in our effort on the defensive end because we were scoring the ball well. We made adjustments as the coaches did a good job of recognizing how they were scoring on their pick-and-roll. Once we changed that we opened it up, played some great defense, got some good shots and then we got our lead."
The win was the second-largest road victory by an eighth seed over a top seed in playoff history. The New York Knicks beat the Miami Heat, 95-75, in 1999.
"This is the stage you dream to be on," said Holiday. "Playing against the best team in the East, someone has to step up. I think it makes it a lot easier when we have guys who have big games. I think me and Evan having a big game, really opened it up for Lou."
Derrick Rose brought out the ball to the referees to start the game. He was greeted with a huge ovation . . . Andre Iguodala, who seemed to be limping following the game, scored 11 points. The team said he has right Achilles' tendinitis but is expected to play Friday . . . The Sixers shot 27-for-42 (64.3 percent) in the second half . . . The Bulls' Joakim Noah shot 10-for-11 on his way to a team-high 21 points. Reserve John Lucas III added 15.