PHILADELPHIA --- Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah aren't the only Bulls players hurting, which makes their rallying from a two-games-to-one deficit after a 79-74 loss to the Sixers in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series on Friday night at Wells Fargo Center even more daunting with Game 4 looming Sunday.
C.J. Watson is hurting more then previously known. The backup point guard who once again stepped into a starting role when Rose tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Saturday's Game 1 victory has been battling shoulder and ankle injuries all season.
It was apparent in Game 3. Watson's first three shots were air balls. He played only 20 minutes and finished with no points and four assists. Third-string point guard John Lucas III played almost 28 minutes and had 12 points and three assists despite making only 1 of 7 shots in the fourth quarter.
"C.J. is nicked up pretty good, too," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He's giving us everything he has."
Luol Deng tore a ligament in his left wrist earlier this season. He claims he's fine but was favoring the injury at times while going 2 for 7 in the game. Deng also collected nine rebounds.
Deng is also being guarded by Andre Iguodala, who is one of the NBA's best wing defenders. Deng is also an elite defender, which is why two players who have matched up against each other for years have been basically cancelled each other out during the first three games. Iguodala was just 2 of 9 abd is now shooting 31 percent in three games. Deng is shooting 39 percent.
In some ways, that individual matchup has become emblematic of a what is expected to a low-scoring series between two defensive-minded teams.
Deng tried to make a shot with the shot clock winding down with 3:40 left but it was smothered by Iguodala.
"Injuries are part of the game. yOu have to have mental toughness to get past all that. We've had injuries all year. You just deal with it. If you look, you can find something every night, every game. You're short-handed, playing back-to-back, an early start, a late start, whatever it is. Or you can find a way to win. That's what you need. You need guys that have a great will to win and no matter what the circumstances are will find a way to win."