Things That Happened Tonight: The Sixers Won a Playoff Series

Things That Happened Tonight: The Sixers Won a Playoff Series
May 10, 2012, 7:18 pm

Now that I've had to settle down and finally stopped cracking up—just
kidding, I'll be spending the rest of my life laughing about the last 30
seconds of this game—it's time to talk a little bit more about what
just happened. For those of you that didn't watch the game, here's the
30-second version: The Sixers led for most of the game, went bone-dry
late, relied on Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams to bail them out (they
didn't), went down three with a half-minute left, looked for all the
world like they would lose, made a bucket, fouled the right guy (he
missed two), and then.

And then.

OK, credit really must go to Andre Iguodala for taking the rebound and
running with it. Remember that overtime game in Denver where the Sixers
had a chance to win it in OT, and Jrue Holiday got the ball off a missed
free throw (or something) and thought Coach Collins would call a
timeout, except he didn't and he got confused and ended up turning the
ball over and the team lost? No confusion this time. 'Dre broke out and
went straight for the basket, forcing the Bulls to foul.

Great. Two at the line with a chance to tie it and send it to overtime.
Well, yeah, technically they could also win the game if 'Dre made
both—they were only down one and there were just 2.2 seconds left in the
game with no timeouts for the Bulls, so it would be hard for them to
score to take the lead back. But yeah, no, that wasn't gonna happen. You
could probably count the number of times on one hand that Andre
Iguodala (who shot 62% for the year) had made two of two from the line,
and absolutely zero of them were in anything resembling clutch
situations. (NBA statmaster John Schumann had his clutch FT shooting at a
stunning 7-18 for the season.)

Rather than debate whether or not 'Dre would be able to make both FTs,
my roommate and I debated which of the two he would miss. (We decided on
the first one.) When he hit that one, I did have a holy hell, what if he actually made the second one?
flight of fancy, but I dismissed it pretty quickly. I'd seen this movie
before, in that same previously mentioned Nuggets game, when Iguodala
missed one of two with the team down one to force OT. Still, in that
one, I'm pretty sure it was the first one he missed. What if he...?

And then, it happened. Swish. The Bulls were stunned, unsure of how to
even inbound the ball, as if they too had spent the entire regular
season wondering how a guy we once thought could grow into an elite wing
scorer could post a free throw percentage that would have been a
failing Phys Ed grade. CJ Watson jacked up a prayer that very nearly
went in—really, it was almost Devin Harris 2.0—and he came a couple
inches away from getting fouled in the process. But he missed. The
Sixers win. The Sixers are going to the second round of the playoffs.
The Sixers won a fucking playoff series. The 2012 Sixers. How about that?

It might sound like I'm excited about this—and I guess I am, at least a
little bit—but moreso I'm really just amused. Because let's be
honest—there's not a whole lot of pride to take in how the Sixers
performed this series. They beat a team that, even without its two best
players, might have still been a little bit better than they were, and
while that does register as an upset of some size and upsets are usually
pretty cool, they did so in such unconvincing fashion (minus the
still-awesome punch-in-the-mouth Game Two, which I might re-watch four
times instead of watching Philly's second-round series) that I can't
even feel all that happy about it.

After games two and three, which the Sixers won thanks to strong, gutsy
performances from their hopeful back-court pillars of the future, Jrue
Holiday and Evan Turner, it looked like Philly might actually be
building to something with this series. Nope—minus a couple nice moments
for Jrue in the second half of Game Four and the first half of Game
Six, the two were basically neutralized from there, and the Sixers won
Game Four on some lucky calls and a career scoring effort from Spencer
Hawes, and they won Game Six on...well, I'm still not really sure how
they won Game Six, but it wasn't because of anything even remotely
inspirational. In the end, it was 'Dre and Lou's team again. Same as it
ever was. 

If there's one reason to be ecstatic that the Sixers won tonight, it's
that it means that there doesn't have to be a Game Seven. Not only would
the chances be miniscule that the Sixers would win, the chances are
phenomenal that the game would have been unwatchable and soul-crushing
and momentum-destroying. Whatever happens to the Sixers from here, at
least they didn't blow this series in quasi-historical fashion–which
isn't something to build on either, but it's not a huge setback, which
is probably good. And nobody wants to watch another game of this series.
Maybe this was even subconsciously in the mind of John Lucas as he
passed to Omer Asik under the basket with less than ten seconds to go
for the Celtics.

So yeah, about that play. One of the incredible things about this
outcome is that, as Bill Simmons pointed out on Twitter, the entire
series basically hinged on a no-call on CJ Watson when Jrue Holiday
tried to foul him at half-court. If the zebras call that—and it looked
like a foul to me—81% free-throw shooter Watson goes to the line,
probably hits two and almost certainly hits one, and the Bulls likely
ice the series. Instead, Watson spotted Omer Asik under the basket,
concluded (inaccurately) that he had a look at a gimme bucket, and
passed him the ball, at which point Spencer Hawes executed a textbook
wrap-up foul, and instead of Watson and his 81% going to the line, it was
Asik and his 45%. He missed both, and suddenly the Sixers had life. And
they won. Because Andre Iguodala hit clutch free throws. (In case you
had forgotten and/or stopped laughing.)

Long as we're talking about it, though, there are two other things that I
think needed to fall into place for the Sixers to win this series.
First, the Bulls ran out of timeouts. If they had had even one more
timeout, to advance the ball to half-court with 2.2 seconds to play, you
have to think that they at least get a decent look, and given the
Sixers' record this season at closing out final possessions—anyone
remember that game in Minnesota?—I wouldn't have bet that they'd have
come up with a stop.

But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the Sixers ran out of
timeouts. This shouldn't have been a good thing, but I firmly believe
that it was. If the Sixers had another timeout, they surely call it
after 'Dre boards the second Asik miss. Then, Collins draws up a play
that probably ends (as it always does) with someone taking and missing a
contested 25-foot three, and the Sixers lose. Instead, the shock of the
two Asik free throw misses and the Sixers' lack of timeouts created a
chaos that Andre Iguodala was smart enough to take advantage of, and the
Sixers were able to take the lead and win. A butterfly flaps its wings
in China and Lou Williams bricks a long two to send the Sixers to Game
Seven. Crazy stuff.

More on evaluating the Sixers' performances and predicting where they go
from here later, probably. But we're done with analysis for now.
Rather, I want you to go out and celebrate tonight. Not that the Sixers
won, not that we're heading for the second round, not because any of
this means anything for or about the team that we root for. Instead, you
should be celebrating that now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, there must
be some kind of sports god out there. And he has a fuckin' wicked sense of humor.

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