The Philadelphia 76ers won their first Playoff series in nine years on Thursday night, defeating the Chicago Bulls in six games. The Bulls finished the regular season with the best record in the NBA and entered the Playoffs as the number one overall seed. However; their seeding became a formality when franchise player, and reigning MVP, Derrick Rose went down with a torn ACL in game one. Rose's injury was followed by a nasty Joakim Noah ankle sprain, and the Sixers – despite being the eight seed – essentially became the favorites.
After winning three consecutive games post-Rose, the Sixers dropped a horrific game five to the Bulls, when they scored just 26 first half points. With the series returning to Philadelphia for game six, all the pressure was squarely on the Sixers shoulders. Despite the Bulls missing Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, they were still a good team, one with the best defense in the NBA. No one ever claimed winning the series would be easy for the young Sixers, who struggled to close out games all season – and seemingly all decade long.
Fast forward to the fourth quarter, 25 seconds left. The Sixers trailed the Bulls by three, following an Omer Asik pick n' roll dunk. At this point in the game, Sixers fans in the arena, Sixers fans in their living rooms and the Sixers themselves had to have a sinking feeling in their stomach. Close games haven't exactly been this team's forte.
13 seconds later, Thaddeus Young made an awkwardly smooth lay-up on a typical Helter Skelter Sixers offensive possession. Down one, 12 seconds to go.
The Bulls then inbounded the ball to C.J. Watson, who Jrue Holiday attempted to intentionally foul, but play continued without a whistle. Then, C.J. Watson did the unthinkable and passed to a 45 percent free throw shooter with the game on the line. Omer Asik proceeded to miss both free throws, followed by a perfectly scripted sequence of the Andre Iguodala era Sixers.
Iguodala snatched the defensive rebound with five seconds remaining, and – as he's done so many times during his Sixers career – took the ball coast-to-coast ... and got fouled with 2.2 remaining. With the Sixers down one, in a series-clinching game, Andre Iguodala was going to the free throw line. It was a Sixers fan's worst nightmare. Once an 82 percent free throw shooter, Iguodala's percentage has inexplicably declined over the years, to a Blake Griffinesque 61 percent. To make matters worse, Iguodala was 7-18 on "clutch" free throws this season and 33 percent in the final three minutes. Dre was an automatic miss at the stripe, especially in the "clutch". Sixers fans were just praying for one make and overtime.
Andre went on to hit both, touching nothing but net either time, as the crowd went absolutely bonkers. C.J. Watson missed a prayer from half-court, clinching the Sixers first Playoff series win since 2003. After the game Andre revealed that he got a little help from his son on the final free throws.
The Sixers are going to the second round of the NBA Playoffs for the first time in nine seasons, thanks to big free throws of number nine. No player deserved that moment more than Andre Iguodala.
WE AIN'T DONE YET! BRING ON THE CELTICS!