May 4, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Chicago Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer (5) reacts after the Philadelphia 76ers took the lead late in the 4th quarter of game three in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Wells Fargo Arena. The 76ers defeated the Bulls 79-74 to take a 2-1 lead in the series. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

Sixers Stifle Bulls Late Again, Take Series Lead

Bulls 74, Sixers 79 — FINAL (Sixers lead 2-1)

If you wanted an improvement on Game 2, you should probably skip the game tape of this game.  Like Game 2 things started out good for the Bulls but another nasty injury derailed the Bulls and it now looks like they are officially done in the playoffs.

Joakim Noah rolled his ankle bad in the third quarter and left the game. He returned but he had to leave right away as he couldn’t put weight on his foot.

The ankle in question was already weak but Noah told Bulls trainers he had it under control. The severity of the injury is unknown but Noah’s Game 4 chances are in serious doubt. Both teams are back at it at noon tomorrow.

This is yet another injury to a Bulls team that can no longer extend any deeper into it’s depth. For the time being, Omer Asik can fill the center roll as he did so last season when Joakim Noah missed 10 weeks after having hand surgery in Decemeber. Asik split time with Kurt Thomas and Taj Gibson at center but without Thomas, Asik will see an increase in minutes if Noah is out.

It was an awful second half that did the Bulls in again. They squabbled away a 14 point lead in the fourth to drop their second straight game to the Sixers and fall behind in the series.

There were bright spots however, they just all happened to come in the first half. Rip Hamilton stepped up his scoring contributions adding 17 points and Carlos Boozer actually led the team in both points (18pts) and rebounds (10rebs).

Now depending on if you’re a glass half full, half empty type of person really determines how you view Boozer leading the team. But it’s nice to see Boozer finally showing up in the playoffs, albeit because he absolutely has to or face excruciating criticism.

But the Bulls couldn’t hold down the Sixers late yet again. This time they waited until the fourth quarter to squander away their lead, which was 14 points this time. The Bulls once again shot absolutely horrible in the second half, circling in particular here the fourth quarter where after fooling us all and holding Philly to just 11 points in the third (a massive improvement from Game 2) they imploded and allowed 28 points in the fourth quarter.

There is something that needs to be done. We can’t milk the Rose excuse any more. Yes, it’s awful that Derrick Rose is out but what happened to all those times during the year we defended this team as an actual team not just a superstar driven sideshow?

There is actually a really good basketball team under all of the rubble. Someone just needs to dig them out. The question is who? What rotation is going to work. The clock is ticking and the pressure is on and something needs to happen especially if Joakim Noah isn’t ready to go in Game 4 on Sunday.

“Our fourth quarter has to be our best quarter and tonight it wasn’t,” Boozer said. “We had good looks down the stretch and just missed them.”

The late rallies need to be stopped and Chicago needs to stop playing like they’re the eighth seed. They earned the top seed lately without Rose so to see them fumble it away without him is painful.

I never thought I’d have to say this, but Game 4 of the opening round is a must win for the Chicago Bulls. They cannot afford to return to Chicago with their backs against the wall this early, Derrick Rose or not.

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