Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 5/9/12

CHICAGO -- When forward Taj Gibson collapsed to the floor clutching his right ankle in the third quarter Tuesday, the Chicago Bulls and their fans had to be wondering what else could go wrong.

The Bulls were playing without center Joakim Noah, who missed his second game due to a sprained left ankle and sat on the bench in street clothes. Guard Derrick Rose, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Game 1, watched the action from a luxury suite at the United Center.

Forward Luol Deng, meanwhile, snapped out of an offensive slump to score 24 points, and the Bulls staved off elimination by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 77-69. The Sixers lead the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series 3-2 and can wrap it up at home Thursday.

Gibson limped back to the locker room, re-taped the ankle and was able to return to the court midway through the fourth quarter. He helped pace the Bulls' defensive effort with four blocked shots.

"I'll be fine," Gibson said. "We've got a great training staff. Knowing myself, I'm going to play. I'm not going to sit out."

To say this was a defensive-minded contest would be putting it lightly. The 76ers shot 32.1 percent from the field and scored the fewest points in a first half (26) in franchise playoff history.

Guard Jrue Holiday led Philadelphia with 16 points but hit just five of 17 shots. All-Star forward Andre Iguodala made just four of 19 shots and scored 11 points.

"Give the Bulls all the credit tonight," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "They came out tonight and they were incredibly physical. The second quarter was disastrous for us offensively."

During the Bulls' three straight losses in the series, Deng never scored more than 11 points. He knocked down 10 of 19 attempts Tuesday, including four of five from 3-point range. Forward Carlos Boozer added 19 points and 13 rebounds.

"I felt like I didn't shoot the ball enough (in the three losses)," Deng said. "Tonight I was more aggressive. Sometimes having Derrick out, we just play a little bit differently. When Derrick is in the game, I'm less aggressive, and tonight I really wanted to be aggressive from the start."

While Gibson seemed to lead the Bulls' defensive charge, coach Tom Thibodeau sent a clear message by giving defensive-minded guard Ronnie Brewer heavy minutes at the expense of veteran guard Richard Hamilton. Brewer didn't play at all in Game 3.

"This is all for nothing if we don't come out with the same intensity, same urgency next game on the road," Brewer said. "They're going to come out with a lot of focus, because they want to close us out."

The Sixers never got closer than seven points in the second half.

The teams played a slow-moving first half, with the Bulls holding a 35-26 edge.

Philadelphia hit just four of 23 shots (17.3 percent) in the second quarter, when Lavoy Allen led the team with six points.

The Bulls also struggled offensively, but they started to open up a lead late in the second quarter. John Lucas III knocked down a 3-pointer, Boozer finished a baseline spin, and Brewer hit a driving scoop to cap a 12-3 run leading into halftime.

There was some excitement in front of the Bulls bench late in the first half when Gibson and Philadelphia's Elton Brand wrestled on the floor for a loose ball. Neither player would stop fighting for possession, and players from both sides quickly created a scrum.

After viewing the replays, the officials handed technical fouls to Gibson and Brand.

"Pretty physical, a highly physical game," Brand said. "They were the No. 1 defensive and rebounding team in the regular season for a reason. This was the first game that we could not make a run."

NOTES: With Noah sidelined again, Omer Asik started at center for the Bulls for the second straight game. Asik finished with four points and six rebounds in 28 minutes. ... Philadelphia last won a playoff series in 2003, beating New Orleans 4-2 in the first round. The Sixers have dropped five straight playoff series since then. ... The last time a Doug Collins-coached team won a playoff series was 1989, when Collins led the Bulls to a second-round win over New York across Madison Street in the now-demolished Chicago Stadium. ... Prior to this year, No. 8 seeds had defeated No. 1 seeds four times in the first round: Denver over Seattle in 1994, New York over Miami in 1999, Golden State over Dallas in 2007 and Memphis over San Antonio in 2011.

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