Had someone suggested two weeks ago that the No. 8 seed Philadelphia 76ers would eliminate the top-ranked Chicago Bulls in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, it would have sounded, at worst, like crazy talk, and at best, like an upset for the ages.
And on paper, the Sixers’ 4-2 series win — one that came to a close in a thrilling, if unfathomably ugly, 79-78 victory Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center — was one of the biggest shockers in NBA history. In advancing to the second round, Philly became just the fifth No. 8 seed to knock off a No. 1 in the first round, and only the third since first-round series were extended from five games to seven.
But to call Philadelphia’s elimination of the Bulls an upset would be to ignore just how one-sided the series had become in favor of the Sixers. And the moment Chicago stars Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah went down with injuries, Rose in Game 1 and Noah in Game 3, anything less than a punched ticket to the next round would have been considered a failure for a Sixers team that locked up its first playoff series win since 2003.
In truth, Philly’s upset was largely a result of what Chicago was unable to do and who the Bulls were missing, not a product of any noteworthy play on the part of Doug Collins’ Sixers. But a win is a win, and now the Sixers — both predictably and against all odds — have a second-round date with the Boston Celtics starting Saturday.
“I don’t know how we won,” an awestruck Collins said, in a statement that could have referred to both Game 6 and the series as a whole.