WITH 4 MINUTES, 9 seconds left in the second quarter of Game 2 in Chicago's United Center, 76ers coach Doug Collins was leaping off the bench and out unto the court to pull center Spencer Hawes away from an official after he was whistled for his third personal foul. Not long after Hawes' foul, the Bulls were heading to the locker room with an eight-point halftime lead and seemingly a stranglehold on a 2-0 lead in the 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, the Sixers made adjustments 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, this time to fist-pump the team's effort.
The turnaround at the Madhouse on Madison was about as expected as Derrick Rose's season-ending torn ACL. Up to that point in Game 2, the defense seemed to have no answer for mercurial John Lucas III's dribble-dribble-and-dribble-some-more penetration. Joakim Noah appeared to have some infectious disease, as no Sixers defender seemed to want to get close, and Chicago again owned the backboards. It all led to 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). 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 22-point scoring advantage, which built the lead to 83-69 and pretty much sealed the series at a game apiece. Game 3 is Friday (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 Rip 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."
"It was a compilation of things," Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. "It was an offensive game from the start. We never got our defense going. We scored fine in the first half and then in the second half, we couldn't. We could not count on our defense. They outrebounded us, they outfought us. I thought they were a lot more physical. We have to come back stronger."
The numbers speak for themselves, but something else was different about the team 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 had 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, Evan Turner (19 points) drove the lane, embraced contact and hit midrange shots. And because of the rebounding advantage, the Sixers were able to get out and do what they do best - run. The last three baskets of the quarter were dunks, and when Lou Williams (20) threw down a perfect ally-oop from Andre Iguodala on a backdoor cut, the feeling for this series turned perhaps even more than it did when Rose crumpled to the floor late in the first game.
One quarter, obviously, doesn't a series make. But those 12 minutes the Sixers put together on Tuesday sure made things a lot more interesting.