Does a dwindling lead equal diminished confidence? It was the question on our mind Thursday as Chicago went from 12 down, to five down, to three up in the final minute. Philadelphia, after going Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol in the season’s final weeks before slipping in, was never the most headstrong team. This is a way of saying that when Doug Collins threw up his arms after the final buzzer in obvious jubilation, it was about relief as much as celebration. The 76ers had to win in Philly — doing it in Chicago would be dicey. The 76ers are the fifth eight seed to beat a one because of heroics from Thad Young (8 points) and Andre Iguodala (20 points, 7 assists) in the final minute. Down three, Young had a scooping, winding drive to get within one. After some missed free throws, it was time for Iguodala’s last-second drive, where he drilled both free throws to go up one. Series. Over. … Omer Asik missed both free throws with Chicago up by one point. Now, we’ve seen D-Rose miss clutch free throws this season against Miami and New York. But then, the most un-Bulls-like moment was how their D never stopped Iggy on his mad dash. No one stepped in front. A mistake that big on D is the No. 1 way to give Tom Thibodeau nightmare fuel â€” and an early vacation. Luol Deng (19 points, 17 boards) is not who you want being your most effective big, and yet he had to be. Nice game considering the circumstances of missing Joakim Noah. … We liked the reverse symmetry of Jrue Holiday (14 points) finding Iggy on the break for a nasty right-handed power slam in the fourth. It was the reverse of a crazy dime in Sunday’s game, another Philly win. … In Boston’s Game 6 win to advance to the second round, Paul Pierce (18 points), who we think has never had any muscle definition in his career, showed off some strength with a hanging layup with Kirk Hinrich draped all over him in the second. Also, there was a 16-0 run capped by Rajon Rondo (14 points, 8 assists, 5 turnovers) taking an outlet like a hook-and-ladder before ballfaking Jeff Teague four feet past him for the layup. Rondo loves fake behind-the-back passes like 50 Cent said fat kids love cake. We realize that’s an 8-year-old reference. … Joe Johnson (17 points) rooted himself like an oak in the right corner at the perimeter to close the third, drilling two huge threes that were his only two of the night. And then, Rondo went big-time with a J a step inside the arc to beat the buzzer. It was a microcosm of the night for Atlanta: they were always trumped. The man with the last trump card in particular was KG, dipping in from 12 feet with his left shoulder, turning back around, then dropping a picture-perfect Garnett fadeaway to go up 80-79. … Teague’s night (5 points, 6 assists) must’ve felt like sandpaper. He was 0-for-3 late into the third and then airmailed a three. He got the rock on the last possession and got stopped before halfcourt without the chance to do anything for the win. It felt like an appropriate way for his night to end. Al Horford made ATL so much better when he returned but damn, his missed free throw down two put Teague in that situation. … If Smoove (18 points) didn’t do anything else Thursday, he had a huge slam in the fourth that left Doc Rivers with his mouth agape. … Keep reading to hear about how the Nuggets hit gold.
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