Things That Happened Tonight: The Sixers Won a Playoff Series

Things That Happened Tonight: The Sixers Won a Playoff Series

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.

Best of NHL: Canadiens score 10 goals in rout of Avalanche

Best of NHL: Canadiens score 10 goals in rout of Avalanche

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty had four goals, Brian Flynn scored twice during a six-goal first period and the Montreal Canadiens routed the Colorado Avalanche 10-1 on Saturday night.

Flynn, Pacioretty and Artturi Lehkonen each scored against Calvin Pickard in the opening 7:12, and then Pacioretty, Paul Byron and Flynn each had a goal among the first four shots on Semyon Varlamov.

Pacioretty completed his hat trick in the second period and added another in the third to give the captain seven goals in his last four games.

Alexander Radulov and Jeff Petry also scored for Montreal, which has shown no drop-off without injured scoring leader and first-line center Alex Galchenyuk. Montreal outshot the Avs 36-16 (see full recap).

Malkin, Crosby lead Penguins past Lightning 4-3
TAMPA, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby had another eventful night.

The Penguins star returned after passing concussion protocol following a first-period hit to get his 20th goal, and that stoked Pittsburgh's rally for its latest victory.

Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both scored their second goals on third-period power plays, helping the Penguins come back to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 on Saturday.

Crosby was shaken up by Luke Witkowski's check with eight minutes to go in the first but returned for the start of the second period (see full recap).

Late barrage helps Blue Jackets beat Islanders 6-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jack Johnson, Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones each had a goal and an assist as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the New York Islanders 6-2 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

Josh Anderson, Brandon Saad and Lukas Sedlak also scored for Columbus and Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves.

Josh Bailey and John Tavares scored for New York, which had earned a point in a season-high five straight games (4-0-1). Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves until he was pulled after the Blue Jackets scored four consecutive goals in the third period.

Anderson put Columbus ahead 3-2 at 2:19 when he picked off a defensive pass and banged it in from the slot seconds after coming onto the ice for his shift (see full recap).

Matthews, Hyman score in 2nd, Maple Leafs beat Bruins 4-1
BOSTON -- The Toronto Maple Leafs found a way to overcome a poor opening period.

Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman scored in the second period, Frederik Andersen made 32 saves and the Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins 4-1 on Saturday night.

"The last three games the first period kind of did us in," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. "We didn't start on time. We were able to hold on. It still wasn't the first period we wanted, but we didn't give up the goals and we were able to execute a little bit."

After managing only two shots on goal in the first, Toronto was happy to get to the dressing room with the game scoreless (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol and Tony Allen scored 19 points each and the Memphis Grizzlies rolled over the Golden State Warriors 110-89 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

The Grizzlies led by as many as 30 points in the second half - the biggest advantage by any Warriors opponent this season. Seven Memphis players finished in double figures.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 21 points, while Stephen Curry added 17 points and Ian Clark finished with 10 points. Curry and backcourt starter Klay Thompson (eight points) were a combined 8 of 28 from the field, including 3 of 14 outside the arc.

Memphis built a double-digit lead early, led 61-38 at halftime and kept building in the third quarter (see full recap).

Butler, Wade lead Bulls to 105-100 win over Heat
CHICAGO -- Jimmy Butler scored 31 points, Dwyane Wade added 28 against his former team and the Chicago Bulls held off the struggling Miami Heat 105-100 on Saturday night.

Butler scored Chicago's final 10 points to help the Bulls come out on top after Miami pulled within one.

Wade keyed a big third-quarter run in his second game against the Heat, and the Bulls hung on after handing San Antonio its first road loss two nights earlier.

Goran Dragic led Miami with 21 points and 11 assists. An energetic Hassan Whiteside added 20 points after being benched for part of Friday's blowout loss in Cleveland. Tyler Johnson scored 15, but the Heat dropped their fifth straight (see full recap).

LeBron scores 44, reaches assist mark as Cavs down Hornets
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 17 of his season-high 44 points in the fourth quarter and reached another career milestone as the Cleveland Cavaliers won their fourth straight, 116-105 over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night.

James did it all, adding 10 assists and nine rebounds in 43 minutes. He took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 straight during one stretch to help the Cavs hold on.

As the final seconds ticked off, James stood at midcourt and spun the ball on his index finger as the crowd roared.

James, who moved into ninth place on the career scoring list Friday, recorded his 7,000th assist in the first half, becoming the first frontcourt player in NBA history to reach the plateau. James is the only player with 27,000 points and 7,000 assists (see full recap).

George has 37 points to lead Pacers over Blazers 118-111
INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George scored a season-high 37 points to lead the Indiana Pacers over the Portland Trail Blazers 118-111 on Saturday night.

George made five 3-pointers, and Thaddeus Young hit six 3s while getting 24 points and nine rebounds. Myles Turner added 14 points for the Pacers, who had lost five straight regular season games to Portland.

C.J. McCollum made a career-high seven 3-pointers and had a season-best 34 points for the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard had 33 points behind five 3s.

George scored 13 straight points in the fourth quarter for Indiana. He was fouled on the go-ahead basket with 4:36 remaining and completed the three-point play to give the Pacers a 108-105 lead (see full recap).