We all thought Chicago would obliterate Philadelphia in the fourth quarter of Game 1 when the Bulls led by 12 with under two minutes left.
Then Derrick Rose got hurt, Philadelphia won the next three games, and have been playing better than ever.
Philadelphia eeked out another close win over Chicago in Game 4, as Spencer Hawes scored 22 points and Jrue Holiday added 20. Chicago came close late, but the 76ers made the clutch shots and free throws they needed to ice the Bulls.
Now, Chicago has to win three in a row without their star to knock out the 76ers.
Even though Holiday had an off-shooting night in Game 4, he made the shots that mattered. He drained a triple to put the 76ers up by four with less than four minutes left. On the next possession, Holiday dribbled over to the right wing, created some space, and drained another to put Philly up by seven.
Chicago managed to cut the Philadelphia lead down to two points later in the game, but Spencer Hawes made a layup to put the Sixers back up by four. Just like in Game 3, the 76ers finished Chicago off by pressuring them on D, forcing bad shots, and making free throws to ice the game.
Hawes became the first Sixer center to score 20 points in back-to-back playoff games since Moses Malone in 1983. He made all kinds of shots, from threes to jumpers to layups. Lavoy Allen started Game 1 of the series at center, but now it's becoming clear that Hawes is the better player. His go-ahead jumper helped Philadelphia win Game 3 and he made his presence felt in Game 4 as well.
If the Sixers move on to face Boston, who leads their series 3-1 and is the NBA's worst rebounding team, Hawes' size will be vital. He grabbed nine and eight boards in games 3 and 4 respectively. Against Boston (if the Celtics finish off Atlanta), those totals will likely jump.
Another weapon the Sixers have is Evan Turner. Turner is an absolute menace on the defensive side of the floor. He defends point guards and shooting guards very well and gets in the passing lane. He can also shoot well and isn't afraid to drive to the hoop. Additionally, Turner's clutch free throw shooting helped propel Philly to victory in Game 3.
Even though Turner scored just nine points and Holiday shot 7 for 23, Philadelphia still won. How? Because their defense forced Chicago into taking tough shots (40 percent from the field) and they made shots of their own at the right moments.
Holiday, Turner, and Hawes all want the spotlight, and they have all made contributions in the clutch. Holiday's two triples and free throws helped Philly seal their Game 4 win. Turner helped Philly win Game 3 with his timely free throw shooting, and Hawes' go-ahead jumper lifted the 76ers in Game 3.
Against Boston, Philadelphia's likely second round opponent, the 76ers are 2-1, with wins of 32 and 13 points. Boston is the worst rebounding team in the NBA, so Hawes and Turner can make a huge impact on the boards. Boston is an old team with a limited bench, so if Philadelphia controls the pace, they can wear out the Celtics easily.
Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, Elton Brand, and Andre Iguodala are also players who can contribute to the continued success of the 76ers.
Philadelphia is stacked with talent, and everyone on that team believes they can go far. With the confidence, hustle, and ability they've shown in the clutch, there's no reason to believe that they can't make the Eastern Conference Finals as an 8-seed.