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NBA Playoffs: 76ers take 3-1 series lead over depleted Bulls

May 6, 2012, 4:22 PM EDT

Spencer Hawes

You’ve gotta feel for the Chicago Bulls right now. After going 50-16 in the regular season to secure the Eastern Conference’s best record, the Bulls watched their best player tear his ACL with just over a minute remaining in Game 1 of the series, and Game 3 saw Joakim Noah go down with an ankle injury.

Needless to say, this isn’t the same team that made the Eastern Conference Finals last season or had the conference’s best record this year, and they didn’t look like it on Saturday afternoon. Without Rose, the Bulls don’t seem to have any ideas on how to get by Philadelphia’s top-5 ranked defense, and the team shot just 40% from the field on Saturday, while only making 3 shots from beyond the arc and 11 free throws. The Bulls’ game plan seemed to be to force-feed Carlos Boozer and hope for the best, but Boozer needed 24 shots to get his 23 points, which the 76ers were happy to live with.

Meanwhile, with Noah out of the lineup, 76ers center Spencer Hawes was able to have an absolute field day. Hawes had 22 points on just 11 shots, which is a big reason the 76ers were able to win despite the fact that Lou Williams, Jrue Holiday, and Evan Turner combined to shoot just 12-45 from the field.

The Bulls are obviously in dire straights — even if Noah comes back for Game 5, the Bulls are going to have a very hard time winning this series, and even if they manage to escape the 8th-seeded 76ers, it’s pretty clear their odds of advancing much further without Rose are slim to none. Meanwhile, the 76ers’ defense is looking as good as advertised, and it looks like they have a great chance of being the 1st team to beat a 1-seed in the 1st round since the 2007 Warriors, although the 76ers’ win will certainly come with a pretty big asterisk attached to it.

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