Surprise: Clutch Iguodala propels Sixers
Philadelphia doesn’t have very many fairy tales. But for career-long villain Andre Iguodala, Thursday night’s remarkable series-clinching win will have to do.
Iguodala sunk two free-throws with 2.2 seconds remaining, giving the Sixers a wild 79-78 comeback win in Game 6 and propelling them into the second round of the playoffs.
“I wasn’t nervous, I just wanted it for Dre so badly,” coach Doug Collins said. “Everybody in that locker room was ecstatic for him.”
Iguodala, so often the whipping boy for Philadelphia fans over the last few years of futility, shot 61.7 percent from the line during the season. On Thursday, he grabbed a rebound with 5.9 seconds to go and dribbled the length of the floor, drawing a foul at the rim.
He said that he’s recently changed his thought process at the foul line.
“I started thinking of my son as I shoot free throws,” Iguodala said. “It makes it a lot easier, I relax a lot more, it becomes more like practice. You’re able to block everything else out.”
Iguodala finished with a team-high 20 points, seven assists and four rebounds.
“This is for the fans. They really deserve this,” Iguodala said.
The free throws allowed the Sixers to reach a goal they set way back in December, just after the lockout broke: Win a playoff series.
It was something that they hadn’t done since 2003, something that only one of their rotation players (Elton Brand) had ever accomplished. So don’t count on any Sixer to make apologies for beating the Bulls without Derrick Rose (knee) and Joakim Noah (ankle).
Especially after the Bulls stormed back from a 12-point third-quarter deficit to take lead for the majority of the fourth quarter.
“We have heart. I just didn’t want our guys to lose hope,” Collins said. “To watch the joy in that locker room is something I’ll never forget.”
By finishing off the Bulls, the Sixers became the fifth No. 8 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in the modern playoff era. They’ll now face the Celtics, who eliminated the Hawks Thursday night. Game 1 will be Saturday in Boston.
“We’ll be prepared, but it will be a quick turnaround,” Collins said. “They’re playing their best basketball right now. They’ll pose a totally different challenge than Chicago did.”
The Sixers went 2-1 against the Celtics during the regular season.