Philadelphia, PA – The Philadelphia 76ers have the NBA's top seed on the brink of elimination after a hard-fought 89-82 Game 4 win on Sunday.
It would be unfair to Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls to ignore that the upstart Sixers have won three straight in the set since Chicago lost star point guard Derrick Rose to a torn ACL late in Game 1.
It's also hard to dismiss that talented Bulls center Joakim Noah was in street clothes with a rather large, bulky walking boot after suffering a badly sprained left ankle in Game 3.
That said, Chicago still thought they had enough pieces to beat Philadelphia and is instead looking at a rather imposing 3-1 hole.
"Things change so quickly," Sixers coach Doug Collins said after his latest win. "Joakim Noah the other day steps on an ankle. We saw Derrick Rose blow out a knee. You've got to take care of your business."
So far the Sixers have.
On Friday all the talk was about Evan Turner. Less than 48 hours later it was Jrue Holiday's turn.
It's rare to write about someone that comes out of the gate 1-for-14 from the floor. In fact the only thing worse than suffering through the traffic jam caused by the annual Broad Street Run in Philadelphia, a frustrating crawl that turned what would have been a 15- minute commute to Wells Fargo Center into a 60-plus minute trip through Dante's third stage of hell, was watching Jrue crank up shot after shot
To his credit Holiday never lost his confidence even after putting up a 1- for-13 performance in the opening half and misfiring on his first opportunity after intermission.
Something finally clicked for the UCLA product and he got one to go, setting off a 6-of-9 finish with 10 points in the fourth quarter, including monstrous back-to-back threes that turned a precarious one-point Sixers lead into a seven-point cushion with 3 1/2 minutes to go.
"The guy I'm really proud of today is Jrue Holiday," said Collins. "He's got a coach who's got no conscience when it comes to shooting, and it's one thing I've tried to impart with our team is, if you've got a shot, you've got to take it.
"Jrue was 0-for-the-world and hit two huge threes to give us a little bit of a cushion. That's the kind of growth and maturity I love to see from my young guys. Don't fear the consequences. We always talk about it, if you miss, you miss."
Holiday in turn lauded his coach for sticking with him through an awful stretch.
"It was really big," said Holiday when asked about Collins' confidence in him "Coach Collins has a lot to do with that [his confidence]. He tells me every game that if I'm not shooting well to keep on shooting. He was a scorer so he understands but I just came down the stretch and hit some big shots."
With Philadelphia now on the verge on the rare one-eight upset, it's Holiday, who is still just 21 years old, that has taken the lead for the Sixers, pacing the team at 19.8 points per game in the series.
"Well, he's tough," Thibodeau said when asked about his lead antagonist these days. "I though [C.J. Watson] played him well, and Holiday has the ability to make tough shots. He's clever with the dribble and you have to rely on your team defense."
A 3-1 advantage is nice but there is still work to be done for the Sixers and Holiday seems ready for the task ahead.
"This is new for me, this is my first time experiencing this and I'm excited," Holiday said. "But next game we need to play like it's Game 7. We have to play like our backs our against the wall."
Collins agrees and was already trying to tattoo that thought process on the rest of his young team.
"Game 5 has to be as important to us as it is for the Bulls," Collins said. "You don't give away playoff games. You can't do that. You've got to take care of your business. A closeout game is the hardest game to win in sports. We've got to go into Chicago with the idea that we've got to get that win."