Sixers, Celtics clinch series victories
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala made the go-ahead free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining to give the 76ers a 79-78 win over the top-seeded Chicago Bulls on Thursday, winning the series 4-2 and advancing to the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals.
Omar Asik missed two free throws for the Bulls with 7 seconds left that would have sealed the win. Iguodala grabbed the second miss, sprinted the length of the court, and was fouled by Asik on the driving layup. He made both to send the crowd into a frenzy, then leapt onto the scorers table as the team anthem blared out.
The Sixers are just the fifth No. 8 seed in NBA history to win a first-round series against a No. 1 seed.
In his second season, coach Doug Collins had already led the Sixers to their first winning season in seven years. Now, it's on to the second round for the first time since 2003 and the Allen Iverson era. They will play Boston.
Iguodala scored 20 points, and Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams each scored 14 for the Sixers, who won even though the Bulls crushed them 56-33 on the boards.
Luol Deng had 19 points and 17 rebounds for the Bulls. Richard Hamilton scored 19 points and Carlos Boozer grabbed 13 rebounds.
Chicago could not overcome the absence of star guard Derrick Rose, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee late in the opening game of the series. Center Joakim Noah was on the bench Thursday but failed to play in his third straight game with a sprained left ankle.
Nerves were frayed in the frantic closing stages. Williams buried a 3-pointer to put Philadelphia ahead 73-72 lead with 4 minutes left.
The Sixers were then whistled for goaltending and Taj Gibson made two free throws to put the Bulls up 76-73.
Philadelphia's Spencer Hawes tried to draw a foul but settled for a basket underneath to shrink the deficit to one. Asik scored to push the Bulls' lead back to 78-75 with 25.8 seconds left, but that was again sliced to one as Philadelphia's Thaddeus Young made a basket, and then came Iguodala's free throws.
In Boston, Kevin Garnett hitting a jumper to give Boston the lead with 31 seconds left, and the Celtics held on to beat Atlanta, clinching a 4-2 series victory and a berth in the Eastern Conference semifinals for the fifth straight year.
Garnett had a season-high 28 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for Boston, which has won at least one playoff series every year since the new Big 3 was assembled. Paul Pierce had 18 points despite playing with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, and Rajon Rondo had 14 points and eight assists.
Josh Smith had 19 points and nine rebounds for Atlanta, which failed to advance in the playoffs for the first time in four years. Joe Johnson had 17 points, Marvin Williams added 16 and eight rebounds and Al Horford had 15 points and nine rebounds.
The Celtics will open the second round against Philadelphia in Boston on Saturday. The crowd cheered near the end of the third quarter when the final play of the Sixers-Bulls game was shown on the scoreboard. That result meant the Celtics will have home-court advantage against eighth-seeded Philadelphia rather than facing the Bulls.
The Hawks went 5 minutes without scoring early in the fourth quarter as the Celtics turned a two-point game into a 74-65 lead. But Atlanta scored 10 of the next 12 points, with Horford scoring the last three baskets, making it a one-point game with 3:52 left.
Smith dunked to give Atlanta its first lead of the second half, 77-76. Horford drove to the basket to give the Hawks a three-point lead.
Atlanta still led 79-78 when Garnett made a turnaround jumper in the lane to put Boston ahead by one. Smith had a chance to restore the visitors' lead but missed a long rainbow jumper.
Ray Allen got a rebound with 10 seconds left, but made only one of two free throws, pushing the Celtic' lead to 81-79.
With 10 seconds left, Atlanta's Johnson drove to the basket but Pierce blocked his shot and Garnett tipped it out of bounds with 3.1 seconds left.
The Hawks got the ball in to Horford in the lane but as he went up for the dunk Marquis Daniels tackled him to prevent a score.
Horford missed the first of two resulting foul shots with 2.3 seconds left. After he made the second to cut the deficit to 81-80, the Celtics got the ball to Pierce, who was fouled and made both free throws to seal it.
Updated May 11, 2012