Published May 05, 2012
| Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA – On Tuesday it was the third quarter, tonight it was the fourth.
For the second straight game, a lopsided frame cost the Bulls a game and another injury to a key starter has the NBA's No. 1 overall seed facing an unlikely elimination unless they can figure things out quickly.
Doug Collins called it the play of the year for the 76ers. Chicago's Tom Thibodeau called it a "will play."
The Sixers have had trouble closing out games all season. At times Collins has gone with Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams or Jrue Holiday in late game situations with modest results for Philly.
On Friday Collins went to, perhaps, his most talented player with the basketball in his hands, second-year pro Evan Turner.
Turner hasn't always seen eye-to-eye with his coach and vice versa but there is something about the Ohio State product, something Collins can no longer deny.
John Lucas had just deposited a three to draw the Bulls within one with 49 seconds left in the contest when Turner took things into his own hands.
The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft wanted the ball and Collins wanted him to have it. He drove deep into the paint but Luol Deng was there to send his shot back. Turner got the offensive rebound and tried to gather himself, lost it, got in back again and went up into the body of the massive Omer Asik, virtually forcing Joey Crawford to blow the whistle.
With 20.1 ticks left on the clock, Turner calmly stepped to the line and buried a pair of free throws.
"I honestly believe that the single biggest play of the year for us was Evan Turner," Collins said. "The play he made under the basket ... Evan just fought, fought, fought, got fouled and made those two free throws. That was the singular biggest play for us, of the season."
When Deng missed a long three at the other end -- the Sixers had done it and taken a stunning 2-1 lead over the NBA's best regular season team.
Asked why such an ugly series meant so much, Collins answered : "Not to me. I thought it was beautiful. Evan Turner is a big-time competitor. Big time. He is at his best in these kind of games. He really is. He played great in Chicago. They booed him on every possession and he played great there."
The two have finally seemed to overcome a somewhat rocky relationship this season with Turner's playing time resembling a yo-yo at times.
"I think it is a high point," Turner said of his relationship with his coach. "The last two plays, he ran the play for me. As a player, that's the big thing, that you can show me you have confidence in me. Thankfully he did that. ... It was pretty cool. He had confidence in me to give me the ball in crucial parts of the game."
As for Chicago. It had already lost their superstar Derrick Rose to a torn ACL in Game 1, and center Joakim Noah grotesquely twisted his ankle in a third quarter on Friday.
Collins, an All-Star player himself until injuries derailed his career, isn't happy to see any player go down but also realizes his Sixers need to take advantage of the situation.
"We're playing a team that has some injuries," Collins said, "and we'll see if we can do something about that."
Spencer Hawes, who scored a career playoff-high 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds in Game 4 for Philadelphia seconded Collins' thinking.
"We have a huge opportunity here in the playoffs and we have to try and capitalize on it."
The Bulls never wavered or felt sorry for themselves when Noah went down and actually dominated through the third quarter and the opening of the fourth before fatigue finally set in. The young, athletic Sixers ended on an amazing 23-5 run.
"Our fourth quarter has to be our best quarter and tonight it wasn't," Chicago forward Carlos Boozer said. "We had good looks down the stretch and just missed them."
Perhaps, but the Sixers also played stifling defense, In fact, the 74 points allowed by Philadelphia was the fewest ever allowed by the Sixers in a playoff game.
Noah's injury came midway through the third quarter when he stepped on Andre Iguodala's foot driving down the lane and his left ankle rolled over. He instantly grabbed his left ankle in pain. Moments later, Noah amazingly limped off under his own power.
"He's gutsy man," Boozer said of Noah. "I mean, he sprained it real good. He's a warrior man. Tough injury. I don't know how he'll be ready for Sunday.
Judging by the way Noah hobbled down the hall in the bowels of the Wells Fargo Center after the game, he won't be ready.
But the Bulls aren't about excuses.
"We can't feel sorry ourselves," Thibodeau said. "We have one day to make corrections and get back to it on Sunday. You need guys who have that great will to win, no matter what the circumstances."