JRUE HOLIDAY and Evan Turner couldn't be more different when it comes to personalities. Holiday demands respect with his cool style, easygoing manner and easy demeanor. Turner can trash talk with the best of them, often stirring lighthearted arguments in the locker room by taking a side of a conversation that you know he really doesn't believe. He is outwardly confident - even borderline cocky.
Their styles on the court are much more alike. Both like to take the ball to the basket as their primary source of scoring and both like to have the ball in their hands.
At 21 (Holiday) and 23 (Turner) both are still in their formidable years as far as the NBA goes. So when they combined to start the game by missing 19 of their first 22 shots, they had the type of reaction you wouldn't expect from youngsters. Instead of feeling the lump grow larger in their throats during a critical Game 4 against the Chicago Bulls, they looked at each other and laughed.
They were laughing even harder following Sunday's 89-82 win over the Bulls that propelled them to what seems to be a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of- seven Eastern Conference series. While the two backcourt mates searched for their shots most of the afternoon, center Spencer Hawes kept Chicago at bay. Hawes scored a personal playoff-high 22 points and pulled down eight rebounds.
Strangely, the shift in the tight game came courtesy of two huge three-pointers by Holiday in the fourth quarter. With the Sixers leading, 74-73, and Holiday having made only six of 21 shots, the third-year guard rose from 27 feet with the confidence he always seems to have. With 4 minutes, 13 seconds left the ball went through, the fans erupted and the weight of the world appeared to lift off Holiday's back.
As if to prove the first one wasn't just luck, Holiday decided to try another three on the Sixers' very next possession. He drained that one, also, and the Sixers were able to march to their third-straight win of the series past the injury-depleted Bulls who were without Derrick Rose (torn ACL) and Joakim Noah (sprained ankle).
"He and I were talking all game about how we couldn't buy a bucket and we just laughed it off," said Turner, who finished with nine points and six rebounds and made just three of 12 from the floor. "We just decided to keep shooting it. Jrue's a confident kid, he hit two big shots and he wasn't worried or anything. We knew he wasn't going to shoot that bad the whole game."
It's really not easy to do. Holiday missed 13 of the first 14 shots, which is almost as hard as making 13 of 14. That is the mentality coach Doug Collins has instilled in his players and they've bought into it. Big time.
"Coach tells me every game that if I'm not shooting well to keep shooting," said Holiday, who made six of his final nine shots, scored 20 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished six assists. "I think as everybody knows he was a scorer so he understands. It came down the stretch and we hit some big shots.
"For the first three quarters my shot was either short or long. I was overshooting it or over thinking it, whatever it might be. I just had to get into a rhythm. This is new for me."
It may be new but it wasn't anything that seemed to rattle him.
"The guy I'm really proud of is Jrue Holiday," said Collins. "He's got a coach who's got no conscious when it comes to shooting and it's the one thing I've tried to impart with our team is, if you've got a shot you've got to take it. 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, if you miss, you miss."
And the Sixers did plenty of that, making only 39.2 percent of their shots (31-for-79). But they held their own on the boards (Chicago had 48 rebounds, the Sixers 46), limited turnovers (eight) and fought the fight that is needed to win a grinding playoff game.
Omer Asik, who started for Noah at the center spot, played 22 minutes and 30 seconds after averaging under 15 during the regular season. And Taj Gibson, who scored 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds off the bench, logged 31 minutes and 34 seconds after not playing over 20 minutes in the first three games of the series.
But the Sixers weren't exactly fresh either. Andre Iguodala was clearly hampered by his sore right Achilles', but managed to gather 14 points and 12 rebounds and again did a smothering defensive job on Luol Deng, who finished with just 11 points. Also, guard Lou Williams, who is bothered by a sore tailbone after a nasty fall in Game 3, struggled through 25 minutes, shooting just 2-for-10. Holiday, though, was there for the relief they needed.
"Holiday, he's tough," said Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau. "I thought we 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 team defense. You have to finish your defense."
Instead, Holiday finished the Bulls. Not for the series, but close to it.
"Next game we have to play like it's Game 7," said Holiday. "It's do-or-die. We want to win in Chicago on Tuesday."
Whether it truly is do-or-die, you get the feeling from his reaction to Sunday's struggles that Holiday will easily get himself through the pressure. Perhaps laughing all the while with Turner.