There was nothing pretty about the Bulls win over the Sixers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference playoffs. It didn't need it to be. In fact, ugly never looked better as the Bulls escaped elimination. It was the type of gritty, hard-nosed game the Bulls built most of their season on. The kind of game they usually win, but failed to pull out in Philadelphia, twice.
"It wasn't pretty," acknowledged Kyle Korver afterwards. "But, this is the way we need to play to win this series. Grind it out."
The Bulls won for the first time since losing Derrick Rose to a torn ACL in Game 1. It was the most emotional and energized I've seen the team in three games. The primal screams coming from Bulls players after scoring a key basket or making a big defensive stop seemed genuine. Not just for show. They came together for the first time in a while as a collective unit instead of the separate struggling parts that faded down the stretch in Games 2 and 3.
A skirmish at the Bulls bench in the first half proved the Bulls were willing to put up a fight, literally. Luol Deng said the scuffle, 'fired us up.'
Whatever it takes. The Bulls were willing to get bloody in this one. Philadelphia is not a big physical team. Neither are the Bulls for that matter, but Chicago decided this one had to get ugly and they were willing to muck it up and it took the Sixers out of their game.
"We cannot play out of character and go play smash-mouth basketball," noted Doug Collins. "You can't let one game get you going in the wrong direction. Teams are struggling to get inot the 80's. This is playoff basketball."
Yes, it's playoff basketball Chicago-style now. For three of the last four games, the Bulls have held Philadelphia under 40 percent shooting. It may make for some low-scoring games and NBA snobs may think they're watching brutal basketball, but like Korver said, this is the way the Bulls need to play to win this series.
The Bulls have never been a very stylish team. Even Derrick Rose who's been known to make some spectacularly pretty moves, has to work for most of what he gets. Without him, the Bulls have no chance of winning any beauty contests. But, that's not what they're here for. They're here to win a basketball game any way they can.
It's about survival. And the Bulls survived to play another game.
You can complain about the quality of the basketball if you want, but a W is a W. For now, winning ugly never looked so good.