MOVING ON: Iguodala’s Big Night Vaults Sixers to Second Round

Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner celebrate after Iguodala hits two free throws with 2 seconds left to push the Sixers to the second round.

Last night a raucous Wells Fargo Center crowd (including myself) rejoiced as the Sixers defeated the Chicago Bulls 79-78 to advance to the second round. The Sixers have not accomplished such a feat since 2003 when the Sixers defeated the then New Orleans Hornets in the first round 4-2. The landscape was quite different at the time. The team was coached by Larry Brown. The leading scorers were Allen Iverson and Keith Van Horn and Sixers assistant coach Aaron McKie was on the roster.

Fast forward to 2012. Brown is the head coach at SMU. Van Horn and Iverson are nowhere near the NBA and Aaron McKie had a front row seat to watch the Sixers do something they have not done in almost 10 years.

One similarity to note is that this version of the Sixers is also going to the second round on the strength of A.I. We’re talking about Andre Iguodala.

The captain of the Sixers is often attacked by the fan base and coined as being an underachiever who has not lived up to his potential or his contract. Last night may not have been big enough to be considered a defining moment of his career, but it certainly helps to get the monkey off his back for a good amount of time. What Iguodala accomplished last night could mean so much for him and for the Sixers going forward.

Let’s break down the numbers first. When people judge Iguodala they often do so based on his numbers which at times is unfair because what he really excels at, defense, often does not show up in the stat sheet. However, Iguodala silenced those critics leading all scorers with 20 points while also recording 7 assists and grabbing 3 rebounds in 42 minutes of action.

Iguodala looked in rare form last night. He was unafraid of the moment and did not shy away from the big shot. He finished the night shooting an impressive 7-12 from the field, 2-3 from downtown. That is efficiency at it’s finest.

You could tell that Iguodala was ready for the moment and had no plans of returning to his hometown for a Game 7 matchup when, with 5:50 to go in the game, Iguodala knocked down a three pointer to knot things up at 70. Then with 4:00 to go in the game, Iguodala recorded an assist on a Lou Williams three which put the Sixers up by one.

Of course, the play that will forever characterize the Sixers historic series win came with just 0:07 to play. The Bulls up by one seemed in control. Their 81% free throw shooter, C.J. Watson had the ball in his hands and the Sixers had no choice but to foul. In a moment of insanity perhaps, Watson decided to pass the ball to Omer Asik, a 45% free throw shooter on the season.

The Wells Fargo Center crowd erupted in noise as the blue balloons clanked and clattered behind the backboard. Asik’s first free throw banged miserably off the front rim. There was still hope. The second shot hit the front rim and then the backboard. Spencer Hawes wrestled with Taj Gibson under the rim for position. Hawes succeeded in moving Gibson out of the way to provide a lane for Iguodala and the rest is history.

Iguodala grabbed the board and raced down the court toward Asik. He took off and drew a foul on the beaten big man and went to the free throw line. The charity stripe has not been a friend to Iguodala especially in the fourth quarter. It was however in Game 6.

Iguodala laced two free throws, neither even touching the rim, to put the Sixers up by one to send them on to the second round.

Last night, Iguodala did what leaders do. He stepped up for his team despite adversity in the biggest game of the year, and the biggest of his career. After the game his teammates and coaches praised him for his leadership and his dedication to the team. For all the flaws that Philly fans point out in Iguodala, when they hear how his teammates praise him as a great captain, they should consider giving him credit for that. Sometimes you cannot judge a player by numbers. Sometimes only words can do the trick.

“Dre has gone through a lot. He’s gone through a lot here. I told him nobody deserves this more than you do to have this moment.” – Doug Collins

Can’t wait for the 2nd round. Definitely feel blessed

— evan turner (@thekidet) May 11, 2012

Jrue Holiday also praised Iguodala as did Elton Brand up on the podium with Iguodala after the game. Lou Williams challenged the Philly fans to embraced #9 a little more after what he did last night.

The Sixers will now square off with the Boston Celtics in the second round. The first game is Saturday at 8pm. The Sixers defeated the Celtics twice in the regular season and will look to draw on those victories when  they head to Beantown. It will be the hungry and young legs of the Sixers going up against the experienced veteran minds of the Celtics. This series should be interesting.

#ShowYaLuv Philly

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