CHICAGO--With the season on the line, Bulls Tom Thibodeau said we'd see what his team is made of.
They showed their character by out-muscling the Sixers in Game 5.
"It was a highly physical game," Sixers forward Elton Brand said.
"They're all going to be physical," Philadelphia coach Doug Collins agreed.
It's no secret the Bulls are playing without two of their best players in Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. But their brand of basketball all season has been physical in nature, and that is one way they hold an edge over Philadelphia, as evidenced by Tuesday's performance.
"We're not a physical team," Collins said. "You look at some of those guys, those are big, strong guys.
"You can't play out of character. You can't always say 'we're going to run out there and we're going to play smash-mouth basketball.' Because that's not what we do. If we do that, we'll fall into the trap that they want to put us in. That's why I told the guys when they had that little scrum there at the end of the bench 'Just stay with what we're doing. We're going to be OK.'"
Late in the second quarter, Taj Gibson and Brand were on the ground fighting for a rebound in front of the Bulls bench. The encounter turned even more physical when the two started pushing and shoving and players from both teams quickly got in on the action. John Lucas, the Bulls' diminutive point guard, was seen standing toe-to-toe with some of the Sixers' bigger players and the Chicago coaches had to restrain the Bulls players on the bench from rushing the floor.
The referees eventually restored order, but not after a delay of almost 10 minutes. The result was a double technical on both Gibson and Brand.
"It was just a tussle," Brand said. "I thought I had an elbow to the face and I can't allow that. But nothing dirty. After the play was over, it was over."
It may have been over, but the scuffle ignited the United Center crowd and only further empowered the Bulls, who used a 10-2 run to close out the second quarter.
"You just can't get in an arm-wrestling match with these guys," said Brand, the Bulls' first-overall draft pick in 1999. "Even Rip Hamilton. He seems slight of build, but he's a tough guy."