The fact that the Bulls were without reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose for most of the series likely matters little to Philadelphia fans celebrating their first postseason series win since beating the New Orleans Hornets in the 1st Round of the 2003 Eastern Conference playoffs.
The 76ers advanced to the Conference Semis despite shooting under 40 percent in three of their four wins against the Bulls, including a field goal percentage of 39.7 (29-73) Thursday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Philadelphia is the first team to win three games in a series despite shooting under 40 percent from the field since the Indiana Pacers did it against the New York Knicks in the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals and just the fifth such team in the Shot-Clock era.
The 76ers also struggled on the boards, and were outrebounded by 23 Thursday night (56-33). According to Basketball Reference, a team was outrebounded by 23 or more in a postseason game 24 times from 1986-2011 and only once did that team win, when the Washington Bullets beat the 76ers 95-94 in Game 1 of the 1st Round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Prior to Thursday, no team in postseason history has won a game when shooting under 40 percent and being outrebounded by 23 or more, according to Elias.
8 Seeds to Defeat 1 Seeds
Current Playoff Format (1983-84)
Philadelphia got a big break when C.J. Watson, who made 80.8 percent of his free throws in the regular season, dished to Omer Asik on the Bulls second-to-last possession. Asik missed both of his foul shots after he was fouled by Spencer Hawes, befitting a player who ranked last in free throw shooting (45.6 percent) among the 175 players to attempt at least 100 free throws in the regular season.
When Andre Iguodala got his turn from the line moments later, he converted both of his attempts despite entering Thursday having made a team-low 45.0 percent of his free throw attempts in crunch time (score within 5 points in the final 5 minutes).
Philadelphia’s streak of eight straight seasons without a playoff series win, tied with 1969-76 for the longest such streak in franchise history, comes to an end, as does their string of five straight losses in playoff series.
In the Conference Semis, the 76ers will attempt to become just the second 8-seed to win a pair of playoff series. The 1999 Knicks advanced the NBA Finals before falling to the Spurs in five games.