Time for Bulls to fight off the odds
Q. Now that it's do-or-die for the Bulls, in what areas do you think they're capable of playing better in Game 5?
A. This is when the Bulls players and coaches have to fight off the odds. There are some things they can do to beat the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 5. Except for the middle of the first quarter and the very end of the game, the Bulls really played well enough to win Game 4 Sunday.
The two things that jump out at me right away are offensive rebounding and foul shooting. The Sixers had 12 offensive rebounds for 19 points. The Bulls have to make both those numbers smaller by having all five players on the floor boxing out better. With regard to fouling, the Bulls put Philadelphia on the foul line 31 times and the Sixers made 22 of them -- way too many. The Bulls got to the foul line 14 times and made 11. Although this is a good percentage, they need to get to the line much more often.
Another thing the Bulls need to do is to recognize which Sixer has the hot hand. The last two games it has been Spenser Hawes, who hit his Philadelphia career highs in those games. You cannot let a player get hot and stay there throughout a game. The Bulls' defense has to adjust.
Q. Philadelphia had a 64-37 advantage in free-throw attempts in Games 1 and 2, including 16-0 in the final two minutes. What's going on there?
A. Back to the foul shots by the Sixers, as I said way too many. We can blame the referees and I do believe there were some -- how can I say this with out offending anyone -- "difficult calls." As a player, all you can hope for is consistency from the referees. Solely blaming the refs is a cop-out. The Bulls could play better defense with their feet, react quicker to ball movement and not lose sight of their man. By doing these things you will not be prone to reaching out and slapping at the ball or player as he goes by. Just the rapid movement of an arm or hand slapping down toward an opponent's arm causes a lot of fouls to be called.
The Bulls as a team have to be more aggressive attacking the basket so they can get to the foul line more. Yes, Philadelphia is a good defensive team, but you must get the ball into the paint and cause the Sixers to make the same mistakes the Bulls did in Games 3 and 4.
Q. Is there any Bulls player you would pick out who needs to step up in Game 5?
A. The first player I would like to see pick up his game would be Luol Deng. He is averaging just 10 points in the playoffs and needs to improve on that; he averaged 15 points during the regular season. Omer Asik has a huge opportunity here to pick up his game with Joakim Noah out by providing a spark defensively and offensively. He could score more and continue to be the defensive anchor in the middle for the Bulls. As I have said and you have seen, this Bulls team has been one that has different players stepping up and winning games all season. Now is the time when all of the players have to step up together at the same time to extend this playoff run.
Q. How much of a shock would it be for you to have the playoffs end May 8, when everyone was expecting to go into June?
A. It would be a shock to me. At halftime of Game 1, I was thinking that the Bulls would sweep Philly. When Derrick Rose went down and we lost Game 2, I thought it would be harder but the Bulls could still win it in six games. When Joakim Noah got hurt in Game 3, I knew winning the series would be difficult. This team has dealt with adversity all season and can still win in seven.
When Derrick got injured, my belief that the Bulls could win an NBA championship this season diminished, but I still thought that they could compete in the playoffs until the Eastern Conference finals. With a little good luck, you never know. Now it's time for us all to pull together and "Bullieve."
• Bill Wennington provides color commentary for all Chicago Bulls broadcasts on WMVP 1000-AM. Wennington is in his ninth year as a Bulls broadcaster, partnered with Chuck Swirsky. Before that he played in the NBA for 13 years and with the Bulls for six years. He owns three championship rings from his Bulls' playing time. He has been inducted into the Quebec and Canadian basketball halls of fame.