Rapid Reaction: Bulls 77, Sixers 69
CHICAGO -- Let's take a quick look at how the Chicago Bulls grinded out a 77-69 win in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals Tuesday night at the United Center. Philadelphia leads the series 3-2.
How it happened: After struggling for three consecutive games, Luol Deng finally bounced back, scoring 24 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Carlos Boozer scored 19 points and added 11 rebounds. As usual, Taj Gibson played with energy and passion, scoring eight points, grabbing five rebounds and giving the Bulls an emotional boost, especially after coming back into the game in the fourth quarter after spraining his ankle. Jrue Holiday led the Sixers with 16 points, but it wasn't enough as the Bulls ramped up their defensive pressure throughout the night.
What it means: The Bulls all talked about not going down without a fight Tuesday night, and they finally showed the grit and determination that pushed them to 50 regular-season wins. Deng finally took charge of an offense that looked rudderless at times in the first half. He was very frustrated with the way he had been playing and wanted to turn things around, so this win has to feel especially good for him. Boozer bounced back from a sluggish first half to knock down several big shots in the third quarter. Gibson played well off the bench, but Ronnie Brewer has to feel great about his performance. After being benched in Game 3, Brewer responded by playing with a lot of grit in Game 5, scoring six points and grabbing eight rebounds.
As we get set for Game 6, there are two key issues to keep in mind. First, Tom Thibodeau once again decided to bench Rip Hamilton in the fourth quarter. Hamilton had just six points in 18 minutes, but it was better than Kyle Korver's stat line. Korver missed the only shot he took. If the Bulls want to win Thursday, they must get more production from both. Secondly, Joakim Noah, who sprained his left ankle badly in Game 3, has been telling people he wants to return for Game 6. The question becomes, can he get healthy in time to perform at a high level Thursday?
Bold play of the game: With the shot clock running down and his team leading 74-65 with 1:32 left, Deng knocked down a huge 3-pointer that essentially ended the game.
Stat of the night: The Sixers shot 32 percent from the field.
What's next: Game 6 is Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.