PHILADELPHIA -- The Chicago Bulls took flight for Philadelphia without both a series lead and superstar guard Derrick Rose.
They counted on having both after the first two games against the 76ers.
Rose's torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee cost him the post-season and any chance the Bulls had of sweeping the Sixers in the best-of-seven series.
Rose's absence in Game 2 was the break the Sixers needed to became the first No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference to win a game on the road since 2003. The Sixers head home and are ready to show Philadelphia they're more than a minor speed bump in Chicago's playoff run -- they believe more than ever they can beat the top team in the East and make a big march of their own through May.
"We look forward to coming back and giving them a good show," Sixers guard Andre Iguodala said Thursday.
Game 3 is Friday night and Game 4 Sunday in Philadelphia. The best-of-seven series is tied 1-1.
No player wants to see another suffer the type of injury that Rose did. He's the reigning NBA MVP and one of the more exciting and dominant players in the game.
But he's gone for good this post-season -- and the Sixers are ready to pounce.
The Sixers had the type of production in Game 6 they needed to have any shot at beating the Bulls over the next three games.
Jrue Holiday was 11 of 15 from the field for 26 points, and the Sixers shot 59 per cent overall. Lou Williams was clutch off the bench, going 8 of 13 after hitting just 1 of 6 shots in the opener, and Chicago product Evan Turner chipped in with 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
"Our younger guys," coach Doug Collins said, "they didn't blink."
Holiday and Turner gave yet another glimpse of why they could be the backcourt pairing for the next decade in Philadelphia.
It's just a matter of doing it again in Game 3. Then Game 4. And on it goes.
Collins knows the next step in the duo's growth toward becoming a dominant pair teeters on consistency. For all the games that leave Collins raving about their play, the under-25 stars have stretches where they show their age and inexperience.
Collins said there's "no question" Turner is one of Philadelphia's best players.
Holiday might have blossomed into one of the top five point guards in the league this season had the lockout not shortened the schedule and robbed him of valuable practice time. But that time is coming for the 21-year-old guard.
"Jrue's never going to be a pure point guard. I don't want him to be a pure point guard," Collins said. "But can he be like a (Russell) Westbrook or Deron Williams or those scoring point guards who put the pressure on the opponent all the time and yet make plays?"
The Sixers might need another season before they have a definitive answer to that question.
The Bulls don't have that kind of luxury to get production from Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer.
Expected to help carry the load without Rose in the lineup, they combined for only 17 points. In the second half, the pair missed five of six shots and let the Sixers run wild around them. Boozer attempted only one shot in the second half. Boozer has 18 points and 12 rebounds combined in the first two games. The Bulls will find themselves in a series hole at that pace.
"We trust the system," Deng said. "It's not one guy who's going to try to come out and take the load by himself. We want to do it as a team. All year, we always believed that for us to win games, (we have) to rely on our defence."
More alarming for the Bulls was their inability to stop the Sixers, particularly in the third quarter.
Turner scored 11 in the quarter, and Philadelphia wiped out a 55-47 deficit. The Sixers outscored Chicago 36-14 in the third, turning an eight-point deficit into an 83-69 lead. They also outrebounded the Bulls 14-5 in the frame.
Chicago's shutdown defence can make up for Rose's absence as much as Deng and Boozer finding their offensive groove.
"Defence and rebounding, that's the whole key," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "The big thing was they got into the open floor. They got easy baskets. You get easy baskets early in the game, you're going to get confidence. When a team gets confidence, they're much harder to shut down."
The Sixers trust they will play more quarters ahead like that sizzling third in Game 2. They want to prove it home where they haven't played since April 17 and haven't won since March 31. The Sixers lost their last four games at the Wells Fargo Center.
Iguodala was limited in Thursday's practice because of right Achilles' tendinitis but expects to be close to full strength for Game 3.
Iguodala is one of the toughest perimeter defenders in the league and helped stifle Deng in Game 2.
"I feel like I can think the game," Iguodala said, "even when I'm not at full strength."
In the first home playoff game under new management, Sixers CEO Adam Aron said the pregame show is "going to be dramatic."
The Sixers just hope the end is also worth celebrating.