With the Bulls on the ropes, Sixers won't be overconfident

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With the Bulls on the ropes, Sixers won't be overconfident

This isn't how the Bulls and their fanbase envisoned the 2011-12 playoff run.

It doesn't really matter whether the fault lies with the injuries to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah or any other factor. The fact of the matter is, the Bulls are down 3-1 and facing elimination on their home court Tuesday night.

And to an 8-seed, no less.

The Bulls claimed the NBA's top record in the regular season despite a plethora of injuries while the Sixers needed wins in the final week of play to sneak into the postseason.

"We had to play our way into the playoffs," Sixers coach Doug Collins said prior to Tuesday's contest. "Three weeks ago, the Bulls are sitting here with a great chance to win the championship and we didn't even know if we were gonna be in the playoffs or not.

"That's how quickly things can change. And things can change just as quickly the other way. We know that."

The Sixers have the Bulls on their ropes. It's win or go home time for Chicago, but Collins' squad isn't taking anything lightly, even though it's only Game 5.

"When I was broadcasting, I always called this a human nature game," Collins said. "The team that's up 3-1, if you get down, do you have that fight to get back in the game to do the things you have to do to win games like we've won in this series? Or do you settle into that human nature of 'if we don't win tonight, we got a couple more games left.'

"That's why I said these games are games where you really have to focus in. It has to be as important tonight to us as it is to the Bulls."

Philadelphia is one of the youngest teams in the playoffs and their roster is filled with players who don't have much experience -- if any -- closing out playoff series. It's been a while for Collins, too, as he hasn't won a playoff series as a head coach since the 1988-89 season.

But like any good coach, Collins knows he has to keep things on as even a keel as possible.

"We have a young group and I want to manage the extremes -- the highs and the lows," said Collins, who got his first head coaching gig with the Bulls and was a standout player at Illinois State University. "I thought we were good in Games 3 and 4.

"We won the games, but I didn't think we were on a parade. I didn't think we were on a joy ride. We found a way to grind a couple games out and we knew how much we had to do. So I just tried to keep guys on that kind of path, especially with some of our younger guys."

Watch: Former Bulls center Joakim Noah misses everything with this free-throw attempt

Watch: Former Bulls center Joakim Noah misses everything with this free-throw attempt

We all remember Joakim Noah's twisty-turny tornado shooting style from the free-throw line.

It was funny, and it worked better than you might expect, with Noah's unconventional shooting style from the charity stripe going through the net better than 73 percent of the time over a five-season span from 2009-10 to 2013-14.

But things haven't gone so well there for Noah in his first season with the New York Knicks. Entering Monday night's game, Noah was shooting just 42.9 percent from the free-throw line.

Well, things might've hit rock bottom Monday, with this nasty-looking free-throw try from Noah that missed everything.

Take a look:

Say it ain't so, Jo.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Excluding Jimmy Butler, who should Bulls trade?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Excluding Jimmy Butler, who should Bulls trade?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune) and Phil Rogers (mlb.com) join Kap on the panel. Super Bowl LI is set. Can Bill Belichick slow down the Falcons historic offense? Will Tom Brady be able to pick apart Atlanta’s D?

Plus besides Jimmy Butler, who should the Bulls trade? And after winning in Columbus, is this the year Northwestern goes dancing?

Check out the SportsTalk Live Podcast below: