No Derrick Rose. No Joakim Noah. Down 2 games to 1 to the 76ers in Philadelphia.
That's what faced the Bulls heading into Sunday's huge Game 4. To call it a must-win seemed insufficient. But that was the reality. A loss, and the Bulls are in a 3-1 hole without two of their best players—if not their two best.
A win, however, and it's tied at two games apiece with the Bulls still retaining home-court advantage.
RedEye takes a look at Sunday's game, quarter by quarter, to see how they responded.
It looked bleak quickly in the City of Brotherly Love. The energized 76ers sprinted out to a 10 point lead in just seven minutes of play. When coach Tom Thibodeau called a timeout with 4:45 left, the Bulls strolled to the sideline as if they were trudging through quicksand. Their body language was that of a beaten team.
To make matters worse, Luol Deng appeared to hurt his ailing wrist when he fell in the paint. But he was a bright spot, shooting 3-of-5 with six of the Bulls' 15 points.C.J. Watson, playing in place of Rose, continued to struggle and was the only starter not to score in the opening quarter.
SCORE: Philadelphia 24, Bulls 15
Taj Gibson single-handedly revived the Bulls in the opening minutes of the quarter—literally. He scored the Bulls' first 10 points of the quarter—and 12 of their first 15—to help cut the Philadelphia lead to one with about seven minutes left.
That spurt seemed to finally wake up the Bulls defense, which was its usual smothering self. The 76ers scored just 12 points in the opening eight minutes of the quarter. The lull allowed the Bulls to pull even, and eventually take the lead, with 30 seconds left in the half before Spencer Hawes hit a 3-pointer to give Philly a two-point halftime lead.
SCORE: Philadelphia 44, Bulls 42
The third turned into an old-fashioned NBA playoff basketball game, with each team hitting big shots and putting up impressive defensive stops. And, lo and behold, Watson scored for the first time in six quarters. SIX QUARTERS! The shot opened the floodgates for Watson, who finished with seven points. Neither team, though, seemed to makes a statement or stake their claim to the game. It remained a close contest throughout.
SCORE: Philadelphia 64, Bulls 63
Without Rose and Noah, it was going to be a struggle, everyone knew that. And that's how it played out in the fourth quarter. They put themselves in a hole quickly, scoring just two points in the first four minutes while the 76ers opened the lead to five. That's all they needed as the Bulls lacked the firepower to mount a comeback, although Watson tried to play the part with 10 points.
See ya at the United Center on Tuesday.
FINAL: Philadelphia 89, Bulls 82