Sixers turn focus to close-out game

PHILADELPHIA -- If the Philadelphia 76ers can manage to win one of the final three games of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Chicago Bulls, they’ll advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in nine years.

It’s not totally uncharted territory, but it has been fairly rare in recent years.

The underdog eighth-seeded Sixers took a commanding 3-1 series lead over the No. 1-seeded Bulls following an 89-82 victory in Game 4 Sunday afternoon at the sold out Wells Fargo Center.

Philadelphia is well aware that a series victory would come against a depleted Bulls team playing without Derrick Rose (ACL) and Joakim Noah, who missed Game 4 with a sprained left ankle.

For a franchise that hasn’t advanced to the second round since the 2002-03 season, any series win is satisfying.

But there’s still one huge game remaining. They’d surely like to get that elusive win Tuesday night at the United Center.

“A closeout game is the hardest game to win in sports,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said. “We’ve got to go into Chicago with the idea that we’ve got to try to get that win.”

The Sixers won by seven on a day when their guards shot a combined 12-for-46. Point guard Jrue Holiday was 7-for-23, yet hit a couple of clutch 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.

The real difference was center Spencer Hawes, who played his second straight stellar game with 22 points and eight rebounds. Hawes was 9-for-11 and added three blocked shots.

“I felt great and had a lot of energy,” Hawes said. “My teammates did a great job of finding me good shots on the floor and I just had to knock them down. It makes it easier when you’re in good spots on the floor to get open looks at the basket.”

The Sixers expected Chicago to play with great intensity, especially being so shorthanded.

In the waning minutes with the game close, they didn’t change anything. The plan remained the same -- get all the loose balls, rebound and play defense.

“In the playoffs, every possession matters,” said Sixers forward Elton Brand, who grabbed a big offensive rebound and won a jump ball down the stretch. “Little things that don’t show up in the boxscore have to be won in playoff games. I think we take a lot of pride in that as a team. That’s how we play anyway, so it doesn’t really veer from anything. For us to win, we have to fight, claw and scrap for everything.”

The mantra remains the same for Game 5. The Sixers are treating it as a business trip.

They know what can potentially happen if a series is extended.