Bulls will test 76ers

Posted: February 01, 2012

By Doug Collins' own admission, the 76ers are playing their best defensive basketball of the season.

So good were they against Orlando that the Magic didn't get out of the 40s until Ryan Anderson scored on a putback with 3 minutes, 19 seconds to play in the game, which the Sixers won, 74-69, despite their worst offensive showing of the season.

The 69 points the Magic scored are the fewest scored by either team in the history of the series. In their last three games, all victories, the Sixers (15-6) have given up an average of just 71.7 points. All three opponents - Orlando, Detroit, and Charlotte - were held below 80 points, something this franchise has not accomplished in a single season since the Syracuse Nationals did it in 1956.

You can throw all of those achievements out the window Wednesday night, when Derrick Rose and the Central Division-leading Chicago Bulls (18-5) invade the Wells Fargo Center.

"It's going to be really tested tomorrow night because Derrick Rose is incredible," Collins said of the reigning MVP after an hour-long practice Tuesday at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. "That guy is an amazing player. He is so good at breaking your defense down and creating opportunities in the pick-and-roll game, getting to the foul line. We're going to have to be really good tomorrow night."

Rose is averaging 23.3 points, 7.8 assists, and 3.4 rebounds. He's been on fire lately, scoring 34, 34, and 35 points in the last three games.

He is not, however, a one-man show. The Bulls play a stingy defense that is allowing just 87.4 points per game, second in the league only to the Sixers' 86.1 points. The Bulls are the best rebounding team in the league, so when Rose attacks the basket he has players such as Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah ready to gobble up his misses or convert when he draws the double-team and dishes.

"He's a great player playing great," said fellow Chicagoan Evan Turner.

Turner will be one of the players Collins will try on Rose. Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday will get the first crack at him.

The Bulls and the Miami Heat are seen by most as the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. When Miami dismantled the Sixers, 113-92, last month, the Sixers were playing the second game of a back-to-back. Miami, on the other hand, was playing at home on a day's rest, so it is difficult to say the game, evenly played through three quarters, was a measuring stick.

Wednesday's game is different. The teams are playing each other after a day off for both.

While the Sixers still list starting center Spencer Hawes as day-to-day with a strained left Achilles tendon, the Bulls are adjusting to a potentially more troublesome injury after losing second-leading scorer Luol Deng to a wrist injury that could be season-ending.

Collins said that Hawes, out the last eight games, was close to being ready. His backup, rookie Nik Vucevic, has not played since suffering a left knee/quad strain against Miami.

Vucevic dressed for the Orlando game and was available if the Sixers needed him.

Contact staff writer John N. Mitchell at jmitchell@philly.com. Follow him @deepsixer3 on Twitter.

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