FOLLOWING Wednesday's video session at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, forward Elton Brand was the lone player on the court, practicing his midrange jumper for close to a half-hour after everyone had been long gone.
Had the team not landed from Chicago at 4:30 in the morning, plenty of his teammates probably would have been with him. The shooting woes for the Sixers have been so bad, especially in Tuesday night's Game 5, 77-69 loss, that you would expect everyone to be launching jumpers. Rest, however, was a higher priority, but not by much.
The Sixers scored a franchise-low 26 first-half points, and the Bulls closed the gap in the best-of-seven series to three games to two. Game 6 is Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers also made only 32.1 percent of their shots (25-for-78). If you take away their third quarter in which both they and the Bulls scored 22 points, the Sixers were 17-for-61 (28 percent). For the game, they turned the ball over 14 times, which matched their assist total. Their guard trio of Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Lou Williams made only 11 of their 34 shots and turned the ball over eight times.
The biggest concern, though, and offensively there are many, is the lack of production the team is getting out of sub forward Thaddeus Young. For the series, Young has averaged only 7.0 points on 39.4 percent shooting. He has been tortured at the defensive end by Chicago's rugged Taj Gibson and swallowed up by a variety of defenders at the offensive end. In Tuesday's loss, Young missed all three of his shots, while playing just under 14 minutes, a far cry from the nearly 28 he averaged during the season.
If the Sixers are to improve their chances of closing out the series in what is sure to be another grind-it-out game on Thursday, Young must contribute something at the offensive end.
"It's not all of what he [Gibson] is doing to stop me, it's more of the team," Young said. "They're crowding the paint and that's where I get money at, that's where I go and make my name, in the paint by outhustling guys. I'm still going out there trying to do the same things, but I'm just seeing a lot of bodies right now. I'm just trying to make the extra plays and pass it out to guys and set screens and get myself open in other ways.
"I think they're just keying a little more on certain things that I'm doing, trying to take me out of the flow of the game. When I go set a screen and set a pick-and-pop instead of going off with the guard, they're sitting and sending the other guy off on me and sending the other guy on rotation to come and get me, so I can't take a wide-open jumper. So basically they're just trying to take me out of my game a little bit."
And the Bulls have been very successful and now have a chance to even the series. If that happens, Game 7 would be Saturday in Chicago.
During Wednesday's video session, coach Doug Collins first asked the players whether they wanted to see what he was going to point out. It was that ugly. Lou Williams asked Collins whether the team would learn from it and when the coach ensured they would, the horror movie began.
The Bulls played defense like a Buddy Ryan-coached football team. They were physical and changed their looks, depending on where the Sixers had the ball on the court. When it was out front, they showed a 2-3 zone at times. Then when the ball was swung to a wing, it would change to a 1-3-1. No matter where the ball was, plenty of white jerseys protected the lane, making the Sixers settle for jump shots. And for a team that is very suspect from the perimeter, that's not good. That's why Young's slashing in the paint is so sorely missed.
"We would like to get him involved," Collins said of Young. "Thad is a real high-activity player, and the more active we are, the more it helps him. The game was played very much at a slow pace [Tuesday]. I told our guys we played so much random offense, and it's because they took away what we wanted to do. [Thursday] if we're going to win the game, we have to be able to catch the ball where we're supposed to catch it, and everybody then will feed off of that.
"They ended up making us play a lot of one-on-one. We had 14 assists and 14 turnovers, and that's usually indicative that the ball is not moving, and defense dictates that. And we're shooting it poorly. If you take away Game 2 [a 109-92 Sixers win], the fact that we're up 3-2 in this series when you look at the numbers, it's sort of mind-boggling. If you take away Game 2, we're averaging 82 points a game and shooting 36 percent and maybe 17 percent from the three-point line. And we have a chance to move into the next round. I think that's pretty remarkable."
They certainly will need more from Young to make that happen.
Andre Iguodala claimed that his aching Achilles' tendon is doing as well as can be expected and that it's not really bothering him all that much. Early in games, he seems to have more spring than he does later, probably after the pain worsens . . . At practice, Spencer Hawes was still sporting a nasty scratch down the left side of his face, which happened when he was pulled down to the court late in the game . . . Starting time on Thursday is 7 p.m. If the Bulls win, the two teams would play Saturday in Chicago, time TBD.