The Philadelphia 76ers eliminated the top-seeded Chicago Bulls and will play the Boston Celtics, who ousted the Atlanta Hawks, in the National Basketball Association’s Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Denver Nuggets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 113-96 to force a decisive Game 7 in the Western Conference series. The winner, to be determined tomorrow in Los Angeles, will play the Oklahoma City Thunder for a place in the conference finals.
Andre Iguodala hit two free throws with two seconds remaining and then blocked C.J. Watson’s 3-point attempt as time expired as the 76ers won 79-78 to secure a four games to two victory in the best-of-seven playoff series. Boston beat the Hawks 83-80 last night to win by four games to two.
“I’ve been struggling all year” with free throws, Iguodala said in a televised interview. “I thought of my son and it was easy after that.”
The 76ers, with their first postseason series victory since 2003, became the fifth No. 8 seed to win a first-round series against a No. 1 seed in the NBA playoffs. The Memphis Grizzlies ousted the San Antonio Spurs last year, while the 2007 Golden State Warriors, 1999 New York Knicks and 1994 Denver Nuggets also achieved the feat.
At Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Chicago trailed by 12 points with seven minutes, 33 seconds to play in the third quarter. The Bulls then went on a 22-10 scoring run to tie the game with one quarter to play.
Missed Free Throws
Faced with a chance to give the Bulls a three-point lead with seven seconds remaining, Omer Asik missed two free throws.
“We’ve been in that position so many times this season, and we’ve let the games go,” said Iguodala, who led the 76ers with 20 points. “I’m just so proud of my teammates.”
Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams each scored 14 points for the 76ers, who visit the Celtics tomorrow in Game 1 of the second round.
Luol Deng had 19 points and 17 rebounds, and Richard Hamilton contributed 19 points for Chicago.
The Bulls, who finished the regular season tied with the Spurs for the best record in the league, lost four of five games since winning the series opener, in which NBA Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose suffered a season-ending knee injury.
At TD Garden in Boston, Kevin Garnett hit a 13-foot basket to give the Celtics an 80-79 lead with 30 seconds remaining. Ray Allen added a free throw 21 seconds later to make it 81-79.
Atlanta’s Al Horford narrowed the gap to 81-80 with a free throw with two seconds left before Paul Pierce secured the victory with two free throws.
Garnett led the Celtics with 28 points and 14 rebounds, and Pierce added 18 points.
Josh Smith scored 18 points and Joe Johnson added 17 for the Hawks.
The Miami Heat will host the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series May 13.
Tonight, the Los Angeles Clippers host the Memphis Grizzlies. A win for the Grizzlies will set up a decisive seventh game May 13 in Memphis.