PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Spencer Hawes scored 21 points, grabbed nine rebounds and hit the go-ahead jumper late in the fourth quarter to help the Philadelphia 76ers rally to beat the Chicago Bulls 79-74 on Friday night and take a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference playoff series.
Hawes scored 10 clutch points in the fourth to give the eighth-seeded Sixers the surprising series lead.
Game 4 is Sunday in Philadelphia.
Already playing the rest of the series without reigning MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls got another scare in the third quarter when Joakim Noah left with a sprained left ankle. Noah, who scored 12 points, returned in the fourth quarter and mostly hobbled around the court.
With Rose out, the Sixers believed they were in perfect position to knock off the top-seeded Bulls and build a series lead on their home court.
The Sixers scored only 11 points in the third quarter and trailed by double digits early in the fourth before taking off against the battered Bulls.
Hawes keyed the surge and buried two free throws to make it 71-70 with 3:28 left.
After getting crushed on the boards all game, the Sixers scooped up a loose ball rebound and hit the open court, only to have Andre Iguodala miss a long and unnecessary 3-point attempt. Iguodala, bothered by right Achilles’ tendinitis, chucked the ball off the backboard to the dismay of a crowd that has seen him do that too many times to count.
Nursing a one-point lead, Noah missed two free throws giving the Sixers new life.
Hawes hit a 20-footer for a 72-71 lead and Evan Turner made two free throws for a three-point lead with 1:24 left.
John Lucas III of the Bulls buried a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game and a send a shiver into a team that faded down the stretch after a 20-9 start.
All of that is behind them now. Jrue Holiday hit two free throws to seal the win to the delight of 20,381 fans who packed the Wells Fargo Center.
The Bulls missed 10 straight field goals over 5-plus minutes in the fourth to lose all of their 14-point lead.
Holiday scored 17 points and Turner had 16 while reserve Lou Williams added 14.
Carlos Boozer had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls and Richard Hamilton scored 17 points.
Noah’s injury came midway through the third quarter when he stepped on Iguodala’s foot driving down the lane. His feet gave out from under him and he crashed to the court. Noah instantly grabbed his left ankle in pain — while a smattering of fans cheered the fallen Bull.
Noah walked gingerly to the bench for a timeout but returned to shoot his free throws.
He was on the bench after a few possessions and stayed there until the fourth.
Noah hopped around trying to take pressure off the ankle. He put the pressure right on the Sixers and even nailed a 15-footer.
The bumps kept coming for the banged-up Bulls.
Boozer was whistled for his fourth foul with 4:36 left in the third and joined Noah on the bench. The duo had combined for 26 points and 15 rebounds by that point.
That left Taj Gibson and Omer Asik in the frontcourt. With that lineup, the Bulls kept an ineffective Luol Deng in the game when he picked up his fourth foul about 2 minutes later.
Before the quarter was out, Gibson became tangled with Thaddeus Young and was briefly down. No worries on this one. He buried a jumper for Chicago’s first double-digit lead of the game, 60-50.
Hamilton hit a 3 for a 67-53 lead in the fourth and it appeared they were cruising toward the victory.
Not so fast. With the Philly crowd standing and waving their rally towels, the Sixers seemed primed for a comeback. Hawes fought inside for a tough basket that pulled the Sixers to 69-64 to help them end the game on a stunning 26-7 run.
The Sixers outscored Chicago 36-14 in the third quarter of Game 2, then followed with a 40-point first half on Friday. The Sixers missed 11 of their first 12 3-point attempts and shot only 30 percent through the first three quarters. Starting forward Elton
Brand was scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting.
The Bulls need to figure out a new way to play without Rose and to protect Noah if they don’t want this series to slip away.
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