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Bulls Wed May 09 2012
It was ugly. It was appalling. It was (insert repulsive adjective here). But despite playing a game that would have driven James Naismith to drink, the Bulls limped away with a 77-69 win in Tuesday's Game 5, sending the series back to Philadelphia down 3-2.
Limped, unfortunately, wasn't a figurative use of language.
With 2:06 remaining in the third quarter, Taj Gibson rolled his right ankle badly when he stepped on Lavoy Allen and was forced back to the locker room to be evaluated. He returned to a resounding ovation usually saved for Derrick Rose, but was relatively ineffective late in the game while favoring his right leg. Even though Gibson was able to finish, you have to think his ankle will swell and limit motion, perhaps making him questionable for Thursday's Game 6.
It's unfortunate, because Gibson's performance last night was the primary reason the Bulls won without Joakim Noah. He finished with eight points, seven rebounds, and four blocks, coming off the bench and providing a spark and toughness the team was missing in their previous three games.
Luol Deng ignored the pain shooting through his left wrist and had his best game of the series, pouring in 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting including 4-of-5 from downtown (mostly with the shot clock winding down) to go along with eight rebounds and relentless defense on Andre Iguodala. Carlos Boozer chipped in a huge second half to keep the Bulls out front in Gibson's absence by adding in 19 points, 13 rebounds, and tied a playoff career high six assists in the victory.
Deng wasn't the only one playing defense though. The Bulls held the Sixers to just 26 first half points (23 points for Utah in the 1998 Finals is the franchise playoff record for points allowed in a half) and 32-percent shooting on the night, including a putrid 2-of-11 from distance. Jrue Holiday led the way for Philly with 16 points, while Iguodala added 11, but they needed 17 and 19 shots respectively to reach those meager numbers.
Despite the great defensive effort and equaling the Sixers in rebounding (49 each), Noah's presence was desperately missed. Any thought of Omer Asik eventually becoming a starting center in the NBA was erased by the utter exhaustion he showed after playing the first six minutes of both halves. Tom Thibodeau let him play through being tired in the first half, but didn't hesitate to go to Gibson early in the second half before his ankle forced him out.
The Bulls starting backcourt also continued their series-long struggles. C.J. Watson scored just five points on 2-of-10 shooting (he's now 12-of-47 for the series) to go with seven assists and five fouls (failing to stay in front of Holiday most of the night). Rip Hamilton scored six points in 14 minutes and is now just 14-of-43 shooting after his brilliant Game 1 alongside Rose.