76ers 79, Bulls 78
PHILADELPHIA – Andre Iguodala’s two free throws with 2.2 seconds left lifted the Philadelphia 76ers to a 79-78 victory over the Chicago Bulls in Game 6 of their NBA Eastern Conference first-round series Thursday night, eliminating the short-handed Bulls.
The Sixers became just the fifth No. 8 seed in NBA history to oust a No. 1 seed. They also won their first playoff series since 2003.
Iguodala scored 20 points to lead the Sixers, who led by as much as 12 in the third quarter. They struggled offensively much of the second half, and the Bulls surged ahead by as many as five points in the final period.
Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams had 14 apiece for the Sixers. Luol Deng and Richard Hamilton each scored 19 for Chicago. Deng also collected 17 rebounds.
A dunk by Chicago center Omer Asik, again filling in for the injured Joakim Noah (ankle), gave the Buls a 78-75 lead with 25.8 seconds left. Thaddeus Young then scored for the Sixers with 12 seconds left, and Asik – a 45.6-percent free throw shooter during the regular season – missed twice at the line with seven seconds to play.
Iguodala rebounded the ball and sped downcourt. He was fouled by Asik as he attempted a layup with 2.2 seconds remaining. He had made just 61.7 percent of his free throws during the regular season, but he swished both.
C.J. Watson then narrowly missed a halfcourt shot at the buzzer, and Iguodala climbed atop the scorer’s table in celebration with several teammates.
The Sixers led 59-47 with 5:05 left in the third quarter, but Chicago came back to tie at 63 by quarter’s end, as Hamilton scored six points and Deng five in a 16-4 flurry.
The Bulls surged into a 70-65 lead with 7:32 left, but the Sixers came back to take a 73-72 lead on a 3-pointer by Williams with 4:01 remaining.
Deng answered with a layup, and Taj Gibson added a pair of free throws with 2:03 to play. A basket by the Sixers’ Spencer Hawes cut the gap to 76-75 with 43.4 seconds left.
The game was tied four times in the first quarter, but the Bulls moved into a 32-28 lead early in the second. The Sixers responded with a 15-2 flurry that included eight points by sixth man Lou Williams, giving them a 43-34 lead.
The Philadelphia advantage was 48-40 at the half, at which point Holiday had 12 points and Williams 11. The Sixers shot 50 percent from the floor in the first 24 minutes, after failing to make more than 40 percent of their attempts in the three previous games.
Deng scored 10 first-half points for Chicago.
NOTES: Williams finished a distant second to Oklahoma City’s James Harden in voting for Sixth Man of the Year, revealed Thursday. Sixers coach Doug Collins, who years ago was an assistant coach at Arizona State, maintains a home in that state and has served as a mentor of sorts for Sun Devils players, including Harden. “I wish Lou would have won it, but the fact that James won it, I’ve got a lot of love for him,” Collins said. “He’s a great kid, and he’s worked very, very hard.” … The Sixers’ other key reserve, forward Thaddeus Young, was scoreless in Game 5 for only the ninth time in his career, and the first time since March 12, 2011, at Milwaukee. … Noah did take part in the Bulls shootaround early Thursday, though coach Tom Thibodeau said it was nothing more than a walk-through, with some film study. “He participated in the film session,” Thibodeau deadpanned. “He looked good.” … Luol Deng, elbowed in the nose by Andre Iguodala in the first half, suffered a cut that required stitches. He later returned to the game. … An apparent 3-point field goal by Chicago’s Taj Gibson, which came at the shot-clock buzzer late in the first half, was taken off the board after a video review.