The eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers have eliminated the number one seeded Chicago Bulls in six games with a dramatic 79-78 victory at the Wells Fargo Center last night. It may not have been pretty but the Sixers are playing some inspired basketball right now whereas the Bulls simply ran out of tricks… and luck.
With both teams shooting just under 40% from the field, this game was far from a free-flowing display of offense. As with all playoff games, the pace had slowed right down and these two teams weren’t exactly offensive Juggernauts to begin with.
For Chicago it was Luol Deng who again contributed well with 19 points and 17 rebounds. Playing the role of Robin to Deng’s Batman was Rip Hamilton who scored 19 points of his own and pulled down eight rebounds. The Bulls’ offense for the most part was disorganised to say the least. Carlos Boozer, who was benched in the fourth quarter finished the game with only three points on 1-11 shooting. Boozer did pull down 13 rebounds but as has been the tone for most of this series, he didn’t have much of an influence at all.
Chicago had their chance to steal this game, leading in the final stages. In an effort to put the game away, CJ Watson made a pass to Omer Asik when perhaps he should have held onto the ball. Watson, a career 80% free throw shooter could have held the ball and waited for the inevitable foul that would send him to the line. The Bulls were up by one point at this stage with just over seven seconds remaining.
Instead, having drawn the defender and seeing Asik moving towards the basket, Watson made the pass. Asik took the ball and attempted a layup only to be fouled hard by Philadelphia’s Spencer Hawes. It was a hard foul that saw Hawes make contact above Asik’s shoulders. The Sixers were fortunate enough not to receive a flagrant foul and Asik went on to miss both free throws.
Andre Iguodala rebounded the second miss and without stopping to call for time, pushed the ball up the floor. Iguodala beat everyone but Asik to the basket and was fouled trying to make a layup. “Iggy” as he is affectionately known, made both (clutch) free throws and Chicago was left with no timeouts, just over two seconds remaining and barely a prayer to survive.
The Bulls inbounded the ball to CJ Watson, who almost redeemed himself with a miraculous double-pump half court heave that hit the back of the iron. Game over, season over for Chicago.
Sixers’ fans rejoiced as their players, staff and coach Doug Collins stood victorious. Andre Iguodala leaped onto the scorer’s table, saluting the crowd with both hands raised to the ceiling.
The Bulls left the court very quickly, with seemingly only a couple of players (Rip Hamilton included) staying on court to exchange handshakes and hugs.
Next up for Philadelphia is the old, decrepit and highly performing Boston Celtics. Age has not wearied this team and Philadelphia will need to be at their best to defeat them.