"I can't tell you how proud I am and to see the joy after the win," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "But it's short term. Sunday at 1 we have to come in and get prepared."
It certainly didn't appear after three quarters that the Sixers would be holding an advantage after three games.
First, Chicago center Joakim Noah went down midway through the third after gruesomely twisting his left ankle. And the Bulls' lead grew as he was in the locker room getting treatment. Though he returned briefly, he left a minute later for the rest of the game.
Then, forward Carlos Boozer picked up his fourth foul a few minutes later. And the Bulls' lead grew even bigger while he was saddled to the bench, to the tune of 60-51 after the third period.
Up to that point, the Sixers had been horrendous from the floor (18 for 60, 30 percent), tormented on the boards (38-17), and had just been outscored by 21-11 in the third period.
As much as the third quarter in Game 2 brought optimism to the 76ers for the series against the Bulls, Friday's third period seemed to zap all that momentum.
Friday's fourth quarter, however, turned out to be much like Tuesday's third.
After the Bulls corralled a half-dozen offensive rebounds at the beginning of the fourth and the fans started riding the home team with a chorus of boos, the lead grew to 67-53 on a Rip Hamilton three-pointer with 10 minutes, 16 seconds remaining.
Then came the 26-7 explosion by the Sixers to end the game.
There were multiple stars, who all had been pretty much duds up to that point. Jrue Holiday scored 10 points during the stretch, at one point following his own miss with a tip-in among the trees. Spencer Hawes, who had missed three layups in the second half, also scored 10 in the run, his jumper with 2:11 left giving the Sixers a 72-71 lead that they wouldn't relinquish.
After Collins lauded those players and Andre Iguodala for his defense and Lou Williams for his toughness, he labeled a play by Evan Turner late in the game as the biggest one of the season.
With the Sixers up just 75-74 after a trey by John Lucas III, Turner missed a layup in traffic. He got the rebound only to be blocked by Luol Deng. He got the ball again and was fouled trying to convert a layup. His two subsequent foul shots put the Sixers up by 77-74 with 20.1 seconds left and moved the crowd to a frenzy.
"It was beautiful," said Collins of Turner's resiliency. "Evan getting in there and fighting, he's a big-time competitor. He is at his best in these kinds of games. He played great in Chicago. It's fun to watch Evan and Jrue out there and Dre anchoring the defense."
Hawes scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while Holiday had 17 points to go with six assists. Turner contributed 17 points and six each of rebounds and assists, and Williams, despite an aching tailbone after a hard fall in the fourth, finished with 14 points.
"The last couple of plays Coach put the ball in my hands, and I didn't want him to regret the decision," said Turner, who played a team-high 40:42. "I wanted the shot [on which he was fouled], took it to the rack. I didn't make the first one but kept fighting and fighting and got fouled."
Fighting and fighting were pretty fitting words.
"His will to win was excellent," said Elton Brand of Turner. "He wouldn't let us lose that game."
It was needed. Brand was held scoreless after missing each of his five shots. Iguodala, battling a very sore right Achilles tendon, was nonthreatening on offense, scoring only five points, and the team made just one of its 14 three-point attempts. Still, somehow, some way . . .
"If we're going to lose, we're going to lose playing our butts off," said Williams. Asked about how it felt hitting shots late with such a sore tailbone, he said: "I can score in my sleep."
While the Sixers celebrated, the Bulls hobbled. Noah left the locker room on crutches without comment but with a cast around the ankle. He had X-rays but the results weren't known.
Whoever is there or isn't for the Bulls on Sunday, the Sixers insist they will play the same way.
Hopefully for them, they meant the same way as in the third quarter on Tuesday and the fourth on Friday.
"We still have a job to do," said Brand. "If Noah isn't ready to play and we know [Derrick] Rose won't be there we still have to bring our A game."
Something they've done for 24 minutes of this series.
Contact Bob Cooney at firstname.lastname@example.org.