What Difference Does It Make? Sixers Face Rose-Less Bulls in Game Two

What Difference Does It Make? Sixers Face Rose-Less Bulls in Game Two

It probably says something about this series and the two teams involved that shortly after news of reigning MVP Derrick Rose's post-season-ending ACL tear broke, the discussion became "Does this mean the Bulls can't beat the Heat?" or in the slightly shorter-term, "Does this mean the Bulls can't beat the Celtics?" Remind any of these NBA prognosticators that the Bulls still technically have a first-round series to get through, and they'll probably say "Oh yeah, the Sixers? Well, they should still get through those guys no problem. Hey, did you see that Clippers-Grizzlies game on Sunday...?"

That's right: Even without Derrick Rose, nobody thinks that the Sixers have a chance against the Bulls. And really, why should they? The Rose-less Bulls still won at a much better clip during the regular season (18-9, a 67% winning percentage) than the Sixers did with their regular roster, and in the one game the two teams played without Rose, the Bulls won 89-80. The Bulls were even able to do that one thing without Rose that forever eluded the Sixers with their near-full complement of players: Beat the Miami Heat.

Still...take away Rose, and the teams do start seeming to match up kind of evenly. Elton Brand and Carlos Boozer, the two Duke power forwards, both have their respective strengths and weaknesses, but probably end up as something of a wash. Luol Deng and Andre Iguodala are both first-time All-Stars known for their prowess as wing defenders. John Lucas III has a little Lou Williams to him. And if you split the difference between the skills of Jodie Meeks and Evan Turner, the resulting player would probably look something like Rip Hamilton. When you look at it like that, it seems like this should be a pretty even series.

But there's still a huge advantage that Chicago boasts without their top scorer and emotional leader: Size. Starting center Joakim Noah can't shoot quite as well as Spencer Hawes, but he can pass like Spence does, and he can also do those things that centers are conventionally supposed to do, like rebound and block shots and protect the paint and such. The Bulls also bring two big-bodied bangers off the bench in Omir Asik and Taj Gibson off the bench that the Sixers have absolutely no answer for—Thaddeus Young, Nikola Vucevic and Lavoy Allen just don't have the size, muscle or boarding/defensive wherewithal to hang. If the Bulls can continue to own the glass, they can control the pace of the game, and score enough easy points off second-chance opportunities and run-outs that it'll mitigate the loss of Rose's 21.8 PPG a little.

Of course, if the Sixers can hang tough for three quarters, the loss of Rose does mean that the Bulls now join our ranks of the closerless—without Rose, crunchtime possessions either run through likely replacement starter CJ Watson or post scorer Carlos Boozer, neither of whom anyone is going to be confusing with Dirk Nowitzki in the fourth quarter anytime soon. You'd still probably take their options over those of the Sixers, but it at least means that one of the Bulls' biggest advantages over the Sixers going into the series has been nullified somewhat, and should the games ever be tight down the stretch, we'll all be hugely relieved not to see #1 in red dancing around in the half-court, causing all kinds of trouble for Philly.

8:00 tip tonight from the United Center. Hard to say exactly where the series goes from here, but realistically speaking, post-Rose injury I'd adjust the Sixers' chances in this series from about 1 in 15 to about 1 in 8 -- even if that's about twice as likely, it's still a relatively small chance in general. If the Sixers are goign to win this series, then I don't think I'm going out on much of a limb by saying they have to start with a win tonight -- punch the reeling Chicago in the mouth, take back home court and put the rest of the league on notice that the Bulls haven't advanced to face the Celtics (or maybe the Hawks, and then maybe the Heat) just yet.

Sixers-Wizards 5 things: Refresh and reset after trade deadline

Sixers-Wizards 5 things: Refresh and reset after trade deadline

The Sixers (21-35) return from the All-Star break against the Washington Wizards (34-21) at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday (7 p.m./CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app).

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Refresh and reset
The dust from the NBA trade deadline has settled and, as expected, the Sixers look a bit different. Perhaps what wasn’t expected: the pieces of the Sixers that changed.

Out are Ersan Ilyasova and Nerlens Noel. In are Justin Anderson, Tiago Splitter (injured all season, so not really), Andrew Bogut (buyout coming in …) and an array of draft picks.

You can argue for days about the long-term implications of the Sixers’ trades, but let’s focus on the here and now. The team lost a scoring punch in Ilyasova (14.8 points per game). However, Ilyasova’s offense has dipped drastically in recent games, which coincided with a strong push on that end by rookie Dario Saric (see story).

In Noel, the Sixers parted with a defensive presence and finisher at the rim. They’ll regain the defense in a different form with Anderson’s ability to lock down on swingmen (see story).

We’ve got 26 games to see how it plays out, starting with tonight against the Wizards.

2. Just kidding, Jah
It’s been an eventful few weeks for Jahlil Okafor to say the least.

The big man went from multiple DNP-CDs to back in the starting lineup to a reserve role and even sent home amid trade rumors. Okafor eventually rejoined the team as potential deals fizzled, but was still expected to be shipped at the deadline.

Then the deadline came and went with Okafor still on the roster.

With Noel traded and Joel Embiid still sidelined because of an injured knee (see story), Okafor should be in the starting lineup. That will give the second-year center the opportunity to improve on his 11.4 points and 4.8 rebounds averages and perhaps improve on that once-high trade stock.

3. Can you Beal it?
John Wall gets the attention when it comes to the Wizards and rightfully so. The guard is a four-time All-Star and one of the best floor generals in the entire league.

However, the reason the Wiz have been able to rise to No. 3 in the Eastern Conference at this point is the play of Bradley Beal.

Beal has been on an absolute tear this season. The two-guard is averaging a career-high 22.2 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting from the field and 40.2 percent from three-point range. He’s also putting up 3.7 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.0 steal per game.

Any hope the Sixers have of knocking off the Wizards will have to start with an attempt to at least slow down Beal and Wall.

4. Injuries
Embiid (knee), Splitter (calf), Ben Simmons (foot) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

The Wizards have no players listed on the injury report.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost seven of the their last eight games against the Wizards.

• The Sixers weren’t the only team to pull off a deadline trade. The Wizards acquired Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough from the Brooklyn Nets.

• Okafor scored a season-high 26 points with nine rebounds in the Sixers’ last meeting with the Wizards, a 109-93 loss on Jan. 14.

• Wall has averaged 19.3 points, 9.0 assists and 5.2 rebounds agains the Sixers during his career.

Mike Budenholzer: Hawks 'feel really good' about addition of Ersan Ilyasova

Mike Budenholzer: Hawks 'feel really good' about addition of Ersan Ilyasova

ATLANTA -- Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer says newly acquired power forward Ersan Ilyasova was targeted as a player he saw as a good fit on Atlanta's front line.

The 6-foot-10 Ilyasova gives Atlanta a "stretch forward" who can make 3-pointers while playing behind All-Star Paul Millsap.

"To get somebody that we really targeted and wanted, we feel really good about that," Budenholzer said Thursday.

Budenholzer said matching center Dwight Howard's inside game with Ilyasova "who can stretch and hit the 3s, that is a good pairing."

Ilyasova is expected to join the team before the team plays Miami on Friday night.

Ilyasova was acquired from the Sixers on Wednesday night. The Sixers obtained injured center Tiago Splitter and a protected second-round draft pick from Atlanta, and have the right to swap another 2017 second-round pick with the Hawks.

Ilyasova, from Eskisehir, Turkey, has averaged 14.8 points while starting in 40 of 53 games this season.

"He's somebody that for some time all of us in the front office ... we all kind of watched and wanted him to be a part of the team," Budenholzer said. "I think he's a smart player, a competitive guy. He does a lot of little things. He has an edge to him. Obviously he can shoot."

The Hawks hope Ilyasova, 29, adds scoring punch as they attempt to improve their playoff position. They are fifth in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind Toronto.

"He can help our team a lot," Millsap said. "We can help ourselves a lot too. With both of those, I think we can move up to 2. I think we've got a chance. We've got enough games to do it."

Hawks guard Kent Bazemore said Ilyasova is "one of the best shooters in the game, I think, as far as playing the stretch 4 position."

"If there's one thing this team needs, I think, is a little more shooting and he can bring just that," Bazemore said.

The Hawks cleared a roster spot before Thursday's trade deadline by sending forward Mike Scott, the rights to Turkish guard Cenk Akyol and cash considerations to the Phoenix Suns for a top-55 protected 2017 second-round pick.

Scott averaged 7.1 points over five seasons with Atlanta but had seen a diminished role this season. He was averaging a career-low 2.5 points in only 18 games this season and was sent to the NBA Development League on three assignments.