Bulls fall to 76ers 79-78 in Game 6, eliminated from playoffs
BY NEIL HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org May 10, 2012 6:34PM
Chicago Bulls' Taj Gibson (22) reacts after Philadelphia 76ers' Andre Iguodala was fouled in the final seconds of Game 6 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Thursday, May 10, 2012, in Philadelphia. Philadelphia won 79-78 and won the series 4-2. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Updated: May 10, 2012 9:03PM
PHILADELPHIA — Before the game, Doug Collins told his players that eliminating the Bulls in Game 6 would be a most daunting chore. No truer words have never been spoken. Even when it seemed the game and the Bulls season was slipping away, they refused to quit, as C.J. Watson’s half-court heave at the buzzer bounced off the back rim as the horn blew on their injury-marred season.
The Sixers 79-78 win came after Andre Iguodala stepped to the line and buried two free throws with 2.2 seconds left and the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center on their feet and barely able to contain themselves. Earlier, with 7.7 seconds left, backup Omer Asik missed two free throws of his own that would’ve all-but sealed the win for the Bulls.
Asik is the Bulls worst free throw shooter and wouldn’t have been in the game had Joakim Noah been able to play with a twisted ankle he tested before the game. Asik had made 4 of 7 free throws in the game and his two-handed dunk gave the Bulls a three-point lead with 25.8 seconds left.
“This will be the hardest win of my two-year career to try to knock a team out, especially a team as proud as the Bulls that bring the effort they bring every night and the way they guard and play and compete,” Collins said. “If we win this game it will be well earned and our guys should be very proud of our trying to move on.”
It didn’t appear the game would end so dramatically when the Bulls trailed by 12 in the third quarter, but they did what has become their trademark: They kept playing stifling defense and dominating the boards. They got three offensive rebounds during one sequence late in the game.
During one sequence around the 10-minute mark of the fourth quarter, the Sixers had four consecutive shots in the paint and had three blocked as the Bulls swarmed defensively. It was just the kind of multiple-effort play that Thibodeau emphasizes and that the Sixers made in their three victories in this series.
Luol Deng had 19 points and 17 boards for the Bulls while Rip Hamilton also had 19 points. Taj Gibson added 14 points while Carlos Boozer made just 1 of 11 shots to go with 13 rebounds.
The Bulls made only 3 of 21 shots bridging the second and third quarters. The Sixers led by 12 when Iguodala made a 14-footer with 5:26 left in the third. C.J. Watson and Deng responded with a three-pointer and a three-point play to start a rally that ended when Hamilton converted a runner with 27.2 seconds left in the third to knot the score at 63.
For the Sixers it was simple. They would have to make shots if they hoped to eliminate the Bulls in Game 6, which is exactly what they did while shooting 50 percent and making 4 of 5 three-pointers en route to a 48-40 lead at the half at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night.
The Sixers had converted only 22 percent of their three-pointers in the first five games. They made 6 of 16 for the game, including long-range bombs from Iguodala and Lou Williams in the last six minutes.
“We have to recognize offensively what the Bulls are doing,” Collins said before the game. “They’re packing it in defensively, trying to keep us from going to the foul line, trying to make us a jump-shooting team. We’re going to have to make some of those jump shots to loosen them up a little bit.”
The score was tied when Iguodala struck Deng in the face late in the first quarter while penetrating to the basket for a layup. Deng went down to the floor and the team’s medical staff rushed onto the floor. Deng was later taken to the locker room where he received what a Bulls spokesperson called a “few” stitches under his left eye.