If you ever wanted to look for the definition of a heart breaker, this game might be the one to look at.
With seven seconds remaining, Omer Asik stood at the foul line with the opportunity to extend the lead to three. However, instead of being able to calmly sink those free throws, he missed. Both of them. But this wasn’t the end of his night.
While a three point doesn’t assure you of victory, it sure is a lot better than one going into the final seconds of a must win game. And those missed free throws came back to haunt Chicago in the worst way possible.
With just over two seconds left in the game,Andre Iguodala went to the hoop and managed to draw a foul, from none other than the man who just missed a pair of free throws on his end – Asik. And unlike Asik, Iguodala didn’t let the opportunity slip him by, as he calmly sank both free throws, turning a one point deficit into a one point lead for Philadelphia, and getting them the win in the process.
Iguodala led all scorers with 20 points, in what was really his first good game of the series. The Bulls were paced by a 19 point, 17 rebound performance by Luol Deng
In what was another ugly game, the 76ers managed to find a way to sneak past the undermanned Bulls and into the second round, despite another suffocating effort on defense by the Bulls. Despite hitting just 39 percent of their shots and getting out-rebounded 56 to 33, the 76ers, as they’ve done all series, found a way to win.
”I don’t know how we won this game,” coach Doug Collins said.
A truer statement couldn’t have been said. The 76ers certainly didn’t play their best, and by all rights, shouldn’t have won this game with how badly they were beaten on the boards. But they did. And that’s all that matters.
They now have a second round matchup with the Boston Celtics, who closed their series out against Atlanta tonight as well. It’ll be interesting to see if they can continue their upset run, or if the veteran Celtics will able to clamp them down.
For the Bulls, an awful postseason came to a tragic end. A postseason that started off with expectations of an NBA championship, ended before it could even get completely rolling when Derrick Rose tore his ACL in the first round. And then to lose Joakim Noah to a sprained ankle in game three just compounded on these issues. The Bulls fought on though, as they had opportunities at every corner to win this series. They played fantastic defense all throughout, uglying it up on a consistent basis, which is something that was absolutely necessary.
In the end though, they just didn’t have enough. Most will justifiably blame the injuries, and they have every right to do so. That being said, the Bulls still had enough to win this series. They proved it by the way they played defense. Unfortunately for them, the 76ers were just the better team when it came down to it. They managed just enough offense in crunch time, and got solid contributions all over the place. Oh yea, they also played just as good, if not better, defense as Chicago for much of the seriers.
Game one of the Eastern Conference Semifinals will be on Saturday, May 12th.
Player of the Game: Andre Iguodala
Who else could it be? He put together his best game of the series, hands down tonight. He led the 76ers in scoring with 20 – hitting seven of his twelve shots along the way. He also led them with seven assists and chipped in with four rebounds, too. This is the kind of game that Iguodala is capable of having on a nightly basis, and will need to have if the 76ers are going to beat the Celtics in round two.
For the 76ers, they get a round two matchup with the Celtics. I wouldn’t expect much offense out of this series either. Both teams are dominant o the defensive end, and neither team has been particularly sharp offensively during this postseason. I imagine we’re going to see a lot of low scoring, defensive slugfests. It certainly won’t be for the weak of heart, but should prove to be a hell of a series despite that.
For the Bulls, they can start thinking about next year. It’s probably best to wash this postseason out of their minds anyways, as it’s going to hurt thinking back on the missed opportunity that was 2012. That being said, they still have plenty to look forward to. While they might not be healthy to begin next season, they’re going to be at some point, which means they’ll still be one of the favorites to win the title next year. They just need to keep their heads up and not let this series affect them going in to next year. They’re still a great team, the 76ers just happened to be better this postseason.