CHICAGO - The 76ers had talked about taking care of business in Chicago, about not allowing the top-seeded Bulls to get off the canvas and get back into a series that according to history should be theirs.

That possibility is still there - the Sixers can put this thing away Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center with a win over the Bulls - but there's also the possibility now, remote as it seems, that the Sixers, after losing Game 5, could lose this thing.

The Sixers lead the series, three games to two.

Rather than come out and kick the beaten up Bulls when they had the opportunity, the Sixers delivered their worst offensive performance of the playoffs.

When they needed their offense to be most effective it was nowhere to be found. A huge part of that was the Bulls' defense, which limited the Sixers to just 32.1 percent shooting from the field.

The loss left the Sixers disappointed but not deflated.

"I told our guys there should be no discouragement. They did what they had to do here tonight," coach Doug Collins said of the Bulls. "They won the game. We've got to go home, and we've got to be more efficient offensively. That's three games in a row that they've held us under 40 percent. We had the one good shooting game, but other than that we've really struggled to make shots."

The Bulls, in fact, could very well be in control of this series had they not blown a 14-point fourth-quarter lead in the Wells Fargo Center in Game 3.

The Bulls have been taking on water ever since this series started.

It began when they lost superstar guard Derrick Rose in Game 1. Two games later their second best player, center Joakim Noah, suffered a sprained left ankle that grounded him for Games 4 and 5.

The shooting woes of forward Luol Deng have been directly connected to the torn ligaments in his left hand. But Deng showed up big on Tuesday, finishing with a game-high 24 points.

Even though they are without Rose for the remainder of these playoffs and a good chunk of next season, the Bulls have to believe that if they stretch this series out - perhaps to a seventh game - that they might be able to take the Sixers, get healthier and, who knows, maybe even get back to the Eastern Conference finals.

"I don't want to come back here for Game 7," Collins said.

He then added: "I've been around the game for a long time. You can't let one game get you spinning in the wrong direction."

Before the game even tipped, Collins referred to it as a "human nature game." By this he meant that it was only human nature for a team holding a three-games-to-one advantage to perhaps not value the game as much as the more desperate team.

The Bulls were trying to avoid becoming the fifth top seed in the league history to fall to the eighth seed.

But for whatever reason, the Sixers began the night as lethargically as they have at any point in the postseason against a team that was ready to be beaten.

The combination of Spencer Hawes, Jrue Holiday, and Evan Turner, so good for the Sixers in earlier games, combined to make just 3 of their 18 field-goal attempts in the first half.