PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia 76ers forward Andre Iguodala, who struggled all season at the foul line, has developed a routine to help him relax there -- he pretends he is having a conversation with his 5-year-old son, Andre II.
"It's like I'm teaching him to shoot free throws," the elder Iguodala said. "And when you're teaching him to shoot free throws, you can't miss."
Iguodala Sr. did not miss with 2.2 seconds left Thursday, connecting twice at the line to lift the Sixers to a 79-78 victory over the Chicago Bulls in Game 6 of their NBA Eastern Conference first-round series, eliminating the top-seeded (and short-handed) Bulls.
The Sixers became just the fifth No. 8 seed in NBA history to oust a No. 1 seed. Winners of a playoff series for the first time since 2003, they will face Boston in the conference semifinals beginning Saturday in Boston.
Iguodala scored 20 points to lead the Sixers, who won even though they were outrebounded 56-33 and outscored on second-chance points, 29-5. They didn't have an offensive rebound until 9:49 remained in the game.
The Sixers, who got 14 points each from Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams, also struggled offensively, as they had for much of the series. They shot just 31.7 percent from the floor in the second half, when they were outscored 38-31.
Luol Deng and Rip Hamilton each scored 19 for Chicago, which lost star point guard Derrick Rose for the series to a knee injury in Game 1. Deng also collected 17 rebounds.
A dunk by Chicago center Omer Asik, again filling in for the injured Joakim Noah (ankle), gave the Bulls a 78-75 lead with 25.8 seconds left. Thaddeus Young then scored for the Sixers with 12 seconds left, and Asik – a 45.6-percent free-throw shooter during the regular season – missed twice at the line with seven seconds to play.
Iguodala rebounded the ball and sped downcourt.
"I just thought, push it," he said. "I saw Asik, so I said, ‘Just attack. Just go right at him.' "
Iguodala drew a foul from Asik as he attempted a layup. The 61.7-percent foul shooter during the regular season was true on both.
C.J. Watson then narrowly missed a halfcourt shot at the buzzer, and Iguodala climbed atop the scorer's table in celebration, as did a few teammates.
"I told (Iguodala), nobody deserves this more than you do, to have this moment," Sixers coach Doug Collins said.
It appeared that Collins couldn't bear to watch either of Iguodala's free throw attempts, though the coach said otherwise.
"I was peeking," he said.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau congratulated the Sixers during his postgame news conference, but also questioned what happened on two critical sequences at the end of the game.
First, it appeared Holiday fouled Watson when the ball was inbounded after Young's basket, but nothing was called. Watson then passed to Asik under the basket, who was fouled hard by Spencer Hawes.
"I've got to get more clarity on what a flagrant foul is," Thibodeau said, "because I don't understand that."
He also disputed whether Asik fouled Iguodala at the end.
"From my viewpoint," Thibodeau said, "I thought Omer had the ball."
The Sixers led 59-47 with 5:05 left in the third quarter, but Chicago came back to tie at 63-63 by quarter's end, as Hamilton scored six points and Deng five in a 16-4 flurry.
The Bulls surged into a 70-65 lead with 7:32 left, before the Sixers came back to take a 73-72 lead on a 3-pointer by Williams with 4:01 remaining.
Deng answered with a layup, and Taj Gibson added a pair of free throws with 2:03 to play. A basket by the Hawes cut the gap to 76-75 with 43.4 seconds left.
The game was tied four times in the first quarter, but the Bulls moved into a 32-28 lead early in the second. The Sixers responded with a 15-2 flurry that included eight points by sixth man Lou Williams, giving them a 43-34 lead.
The Philadelphia advantage was 48-40 at the half, at which point Holiday had 12 points and Williams 11. The Sixers shot 50 percent from the floor in the first 24 minutes, after failing to make more than 40 percent of their attempts in the three previous games.