Bulls vs Sixers Game 3: Defense, rebounding are the keys, but Deng needs to step up

Bulls vs Sixers Game 3: Defense, rebounding are the keys, but Deng needs to step up
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Forget Derrick Rose, the Bulls could have had Jordan and Pippen and Rodman and Kukoc and Kerr and they don't win games giving up 59% shooting and getting outrebounded in playoff games.

CJ and JL3 did a great job of replacing Rose's production, combining for 27 points and 7 assists with two turnovers, shooting 11/23 from the field and 3/7 from behind the arc.

But the best rebounding team got beat by six on the boards. That is inexcusable, plain and simple. So is forcing ZERO turnovers in the second half.

Yes, the Sixers played out of their minds. They withstood the early Bulls' onslaught, outfighting and outhustling the Bulls for several loose balls in the first half, keeping them closer than they could have otherwise been.

The Sixers will not shoot this well again for a long, long time. But if the Bulls get outrebounded again, the Sixers don't have to shoot well to win. They are at their most dangerous on the fast break, and if they Bulls aren't their usual dominant selves on the offensive boards, that's where the Sixers will spent the game.

If the Bulls don't control the defensive glass, the Sixers can shoot a low percentage and win with second-chance points.

In Game 2, the Bulls seemed to lose all their emotion at halftime. This game will be different of course, the Bulls should be back to reality and generally pissed off as a roster. I fully expect the "normal" Rose-less Bulls to show up tonight, there are too many veterans on the team who have too much post-season experience for them not to get back to their defense, rebounding selves.

All of that being said, someone needs to step up big-time and be a leader. Luol Deng is the Bulls' other All-Star, he has to be the guy tonight. Get the tough bucket when they need it, by getting a shot, getting open or finding the open teammate. Lock down his man on defense, no matter who he's asked to guard.

Deng is the glue guy on this team, the guy Thibs counts on to do everything for 40 minutes a night. This seriesĀ is the first big chance in Thibs' 2 years for Deng to be the man, the leading scorerĀ in the playoffs... much like he was back in 2006 when the Deng-Hinrich-Gordon Bulls were knocking the defending champion Heat out of the playoffs.



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    Don Ellis started covering sports professionally when he was 15. He attended Ball State University, and some of his past credits include InsideHoops (NBA Runaround, The NBA According to Ellis) and ESPN Florida (The Florida Sports Reporters, SportsCenter anchor) . In addition to running Bullsville.net and ChicagoSportsWriters.com, and writing for ChicagoNow and SportsBlog.com, he is also a KHSAA and semi-pro baseball umpire. He's a 3rd-generation Cubs fan, a Bulls fan since the days of Van Lier and Sloan, and a life-long New England Patriots fan. Follow Don on Twitter @Bullsville.

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