BLS Is Back: What do the Sixers need to do to close out the Bulls?

Luol Deng scored 24 points to help the Bulls avoid elimination in Game 5. Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.

As many of my devoted readers know, I’m currently a broadcast major at Temple University and therefore my schedule is rarely ever free. With that being said, I want to end my hiatus from writing and get back to getting my thoughts on sports back on the screen. I finished my Junior year yesterday and I’m ready to write as much as possible over the summer break to inform my readers…and now to business.

Last night’s game for the Sixers was in every way, everything that the Sixers wanted not to occur. They had a chance to close out the Chicago Bulls on their court to advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2003. Of course, people know that the circumstances challenging the Bulls may diminish the accomplish but winning is always a step in the right direction and the team looks hungry to move on.

Last night’s game was a sheer oddity in so many respects. The Chicago Bulls were in control for the lion’s share of the game but they themselves certainly did not play an amazing game by any stretch of the imagination. Chicago failed to get to the line very much and only shot 4-11( .364). They tied the Sixers in rebounds and lost the turnover battle 15-14.

There were two very specific reasons why the Bulls won that game the way they did. The first and most important reason was Luol Deng. When Derrick Rose went down in Game 1 of the series, the Bulls needed someone to step up their performance on the offensive end of the floor. Typically when high caliber scorers go down, teams try to lean on the players to replace his scoring collectively, but that is way more difficult than it sounds. Sometimes asking several players to give a little more a piece is harder than asking one player to give more.

Deng stepped up for the first time in this series dropping 24 points on the Sixers while also grabbing 8 rebounds. Deng dropped three 3-pointers in the second half with the shot clock on the verge of expiring . At the final horn, those three shots proved incredibly important considering the final score, 77-69. NBA teams need a leader on the offensive end to be successful and Deng finally stepped into that role last night for Chicago. If that play continues, Chicago could pull this series out.

The expectation is probably that I will name defense as the second reason for why the Bulls won but that is not the case.

The second reason was officiating. If you ask most people they will indeed tell you that I don’t exactly have a wonderful relationships with officials. I often yell at them through the TV or when I attend games as a fan. I tend to nitpick their calls a bit. I used to umpire young children’s baseball games and often found myself arguing with myself.

However, I have tried to be as objective and understanding as possible when it comes to officials and the difficult job that they perform. Even though I try my best to do so, last night was unacceptable. I even went on to tweet about my displeasure with the officials. The referees last night swallowed their whistles more times than the fans swallowed their deep dish pizzas (or cheesesteaks if you’re a Sixers fan). We all understand that playoff basketball is supposed to be a little more physical but the play last night was beyond “chippy”.

Whoever the head of #NBA officials is better take a close look at this #sixers #bulls game. This is going too far. This isn’t basketball.
May 09 via Twitter for Android Favorite Retweet Reply

The officials effect was clear in the final score. 77-69 had less to do with inefficiency of the offenses or stellar defense than it did with horrible officiating. It was not one sided either. Both teams drove to the basket beautifully all night and they were not rewarded for their efforts.  We all want the Sixers to drive more but if the referees are not blowing the whistles, there is little to no point.

Hopefully the league has reviewed last night’s game and told the referees that they must do better going forward because that was not basketball at all last night. If I were Doug Collins or Tom Thibodeau, I would’ve been seriously concerned with my players’ safety out there last night due to the escalating level of physicality caused by the officials’ no calls. One of the referees biggest responsibilities is to keep order and they failed at that last night.

With that being said, the Sixers must do some key things to ensure a win tomorrow night in Game 6.

1. Keep taking good shots: The Sixers clearly shot poorly last night ( .321). However, if you go back and watch the tape, they took some fairly good shots and did a much better job of not forcing things. The shots simply did not fall and Doug Collins made it clear that he will never discourage his guys from taking good shots. That is essential to provide players with confidence. If Jrue Holiday would have failed to keep shooting in Game 4, this series would be 3-2 in Chicago’s favor.

2. Get Thaddeus Young going: Young is only averaging around 7 points in this series and failed to tally a single point in Game 5. He had several shots rejected at the rim and could not find himself at all. The Bulls are a terrible match-up for Young due to their size but Young has the ability to pull their post players away from the basket on the offensive end while driving past them for easy buckets. Collins has to work him into the game plan because he could be the x factor the Sixers needs.

3. Be confident: This is not the most specific thing but its what the team must due. Evan Turner and Holiday have to continue to grow and believe that they are the future of this franchise. Andre Iguodala has to continue to assert himself as a top notch defender and needs to cash in on opportune baskets. Spencer Hawes has to keep his composure and continue to hit big shots and the rest of the team has to believe that this is there moment.

The Sixers have to want this more than Chicago. Their next opponent will be either Boston or Atlanta and both of those series would be winnable for the Sixers. They must try to make this their year to make a statement. You can only learn lessons for so long. Eventually, winning will be all that matters. That time may be now.

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