DEERFIELD, Ill. - When the 76ers played small during the regular season, their opponents often had difficulty adjusting to it.
The Sixers, especially in the early season, were at their best when they could get defensive rebounds, push the ball quickly up the floor, and prevent the opposition from getting its defense set.
Such was the case often in Game 2 of the Sixers' best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series with the Chicago Bulls, which is tied at one game apiece and continues Friday in the Wells Fargo Center. By outrebounding the top rebounding team in the NBA, 38-32, the Sixers were able to get out on the break and play to their strengths.
One of them was having Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, and Evan Turner playing together extensively in the second half. This gave the Sixers three ball handlers on the floor at the same time, and they all benefited, combining to shoot 62.7 percent (27 for 43) from the field.
"A good part of that game was Holiday, Williams, and Turner," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "You're basically looking at three point guards."
The Sixers' collective rebounding effort - five players had five or more rebounds against a team that was outrebounded only 14 times all season - just made things even more difficult for the Bulls.
Chicago appeared flat in Game 2, perhaps mentally spent and ill-prepared to play its first game of the series without Derrick Rose, who is out for the remainder of the playoffs after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Game 1. Yet Sixers coach Doug Collins has to be given credit for tinkering with the lineup and getting more minutes for Lavoy Allen (11 points, nine rebounds) and dictating tempo.
After practice here Thursday at the Sheri L. Berto Center, the Bulls sounded eager to play Game 3 and make amends.
"We're fine," forward Luol Deng said. "We're going to come out and we're going to play hard. When things aren't going your way, what we do is come out and do what we do best. What we do best is play as hard as we can."
Crucial for the Bulls will be making the stops they are accustomed to getting but failed to get Tuesday, when the Sixers made 59.0 percent of their shots - the best shooting performance by a Chicago opponent all season - against the league's best defense. And the best rebounding team in the league needs to do a better job of that as well.
"We have to get stops and stop them from getting points in transition," Deng said. "We have to stop them from getting layups and rebounding. Those are things that we have done all year. We have to rebound the basketball."
The Bulls offense wasn't the problem in a first half in which they scored 55 points. But the Sixers, down by eight heading into the second half, proceeded to outscore them, 62-37, and make 64.3 percent of their shots from the field in the final 24 minutes.
Contact John N. Mitchell at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @JmitchInquirer.