The Philadelphia 76ers and Chicago Bulls matched up in a pivotal Game 6 on Thursday in Philadelphia. The Sixers were looking to end the Bulls series comeback attempt, while the Bulls were trying to bring it back to “the Windy City” for Game 7. Center Joakim Noah ended up being a “DNP” even though he suited up, but Chicago got Taj Gibson back from a rolled ankle.
As I said in my last article, the Sixers needed to make buckets to win this game and the series. Well, that didn’t happen early on, as the team missed its first three shots including a blocked shot.
That slow start ended when Jrue Holiday pulled up for a three and splashed it two minutes in. Moments later, with the shot clock expiring, Omer Asik pulled up and knocked down a shot clock buzzer-beating jumper to put his team up 9-3.
After more Bulls runners and back-and-forth play, good ball movement saw Holiday hit Andre Iguodala for a wing trey, tying things up at 13. Lou Williams ended the quarter with a fade away jumper from the elbow over Asik, giving his team a 24-22 lead.
The Sixers continued to match the Bulls in the second quarter. Lou Williams, who had shot 2/19 from three point range coming into the game, knocked down a wing three on a fast break to put Philly up 8, 42-34, with 4:46 to play. Another Iguodala jumper saw the Sixers take a 48-40 halftime lead, seeming to be on their way to the second round.
The Sixers had some early magic in the third. Spencer Hawes made a jumper to put the Sixers up 12, 53-41, and the game seemed to be virtually over. Richard Hamilton and Luol Deng, however, combined to propel the Bulls on a 16-4 run to end the third, tying the game at 63.
The fourth quarter put a huge scare into the Sixers. An Omer Asik free throw put Chicago up 70-65 with only 7 minutes left. Then something came over Iguodala, who hit Turner for a jumper before knocking down a three-pointer himself to tie things up at 70.
With 4 minutes to play, Iguodala found Williams for his second three of the game, giving Philadelphia a 73-72 lead. However, a Deng layup combined with two Gibson free throws put Chicago up three with two minutes to play.
Spencer Hawes made a huge layup to make it a 76-75 affair after C.J. Watson clanked a three that would have put it away for Chicago. Watson would respond, finding Omer Asik for a dunk with twenty five seconds to play to put Chicago up three once again. The Bulls seemed to have stolen Game 6 and a winner-takes-all Game 7 scenario seemed inevitable. Even though the Sixers were looking for a three to tie it up, Thad Young pump faked and went to the basket and netted a finger-roll, despite what looked like an offensive foul.
Then the Sixers were given another gift. C.J. Watson dodged two intentional fouls and ran the ball up court. He passed it off to Asik for a dunk, who was fouled before he could get it off. Asik missed both free throws, and with seven seconds left, Andre Iguodala claimed the rebound and made the smartest play of his career. He ran the ball up the court, dodging four Bulls and took it right to the basket. Asik fouled him on a layup with two seconds left. Despite Iguodala’s poor free throw shooting during the season (62%), he got all net on both free throws and the Sixers lead 79-78. Chicago had no timeouts left. They inbounded to C.J. Watson, whose half-court shot was off by inches to secure the SIXERS 79-78 GAME 6 WIN AND 4-2 SERIES WIN.
Iguodala had the game of his career, 20 points, 4 rebounds, and 7 assists. This was a very special game for Iguodala. For him to sink the game-tying three and game-winning free throws was huge. Iguodala has taken so much ridicule in Philadelphia over the years and finally pulled out a clutch game. He deserved this more than anyone on that team (besides Doug Collins).
Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals is in Boston, on Saturday, at 8 PM.