The opportunity was right there. The opportunity to continue to be what you've been for the past half decade. The opportunity to send your fans home saying, "Not again." The opportunity to fail in the most excruciatingly painful way. Instead, they rallied behind their embattled leader and watched him calmly sink the second of two free throws and the Chicago Bulls' hopes of a dramatic comeback with one flip of the wrist. (game capsule)
Here's a couple of fun stats for you before we get to the rotation chart:
- Prior to April 18th, the Sixers were 3-18 in games decided by 7 or fewer points. Since then, they're 5-0 with three of the wins coming in the first round of the playoffs.
- The Bulls lost 20 games this year, total. The Sixers were responsible for 5 of those losses.
Here's your rotation chart. Only one run needs to be highlighted, the 4-0 sprint to the finish:
If I had to draw a parallel to the Sixers' final three wins in this series, it would have to be playoff baseball. You had two teams with their aces on the hill, throwing shutouts, and the Sixers were able to scratch that extra run across the plate. The individual offensive performances we saw from Turner, Hawes, Jrue and Iguodala were all huge, but the real star of this series was the team defense the Sixers played. That's what they hang their hat on. Being able to absolutely stone opponents. On the offensive end, the Sixers went through some of the ugliest stretches you'll ever see, but somehow whenever you looked up at the scoreboard, they were never more than an arm's length away. They were never more than a couple of timely shots out of it. Grind, grind, grind on the defensive end and scratch and claw for whatever you can get on offense. If you aren't into defense, it sure isn't pretty, but if they defend like this, they'll always have a shot. If they can grab a defensive rebound now and then, they'll have more than a shot.
Getting out of the first round is nice. Having Iguodala sink those free throws to close the series out was great. You couldn't have written a better ending. They should be proud of themselves. They should be proud of each other. They should take the confidence that they can win close games into the next round against Boston, but the pats on the back end tonight. Now isn't the time to be satisfied, now is the time to be hungry. Don't leave that first round thinking you won something, leave thinking now you've got an opportunity for more. Leave wanting more, needing more.
With or without Rose and/or Noah in the lineup, this was a series the Sixers very easily could've lost. In fact, if history was any kind of indicator, they would've lost this series in five games. The last three wins were games this team has routinely dropped over the past two seasons, maybe even the past six seasons if you think about it. Not this time, though. Not this year. Not anymore. The Sixers passed three huge tests in that first round, now it's time for them to build on success instead of wallowing in failure.
It all starts again on Saturday night at 8pm in Boston.
Player of The Game: Andre Iguodala. Swish...swish.
Series: 4-2, Sixers.
Up Next: Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and the rest of the Boston Celtics. Saturday night, 8pm on TNT.