PHILADELPHIA — Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner hopped on the scorer’s table and played to the crowd as the catchy 76ers theme song blared in the arena.
Eight years of going home empty was over. The Sixers were ready for a long overdue postseason celebration.
Iguodala made the go-ahead free throws with 2.2 seconds left and Philadelphia rallied for a 79-78 victory over the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in Game 6 on Thursday night, advancing to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs for the first time since 2003.
The 76ers will face Boston, which beat Atlanta in six games, in the conference semifinals.
Omar Asik missed two free throws for the Bulls with 7 seconds left that would have sealed the win. Iguodala grabbed the second miss, sprinted the length of the court, and was fouled by Asik on the driving layup. He made both and 20,362 fans went absolutely wild.
The Sixers are the fifth No. 8 seed to win a first-round series against a No. 1 seed. Memphis eliminated San Antonio last season, while Golden State (2007), New York (1999) and Denver (1994) also pulled off the rare feat.
In his second season, coach Doug Collins had already led the Sixers to their first winning season in seven years. Now, it’s on to the second round for the first time Allen Iverson was an All-Star.
The Sixers were 2.2 seconds from playing Game 7 in Chicago.
Now, they will pack their bags for the second round.
NUGGETS: Reserve center Chris “Birdman” Andersen was excused indefinitely from all team-related activities after sheriff’s deputies searched his home Thursday as part of an investigation by the department’s Internet Crimes Against Children unit.
The team announced its decision shortly before the Nuggets faced the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of their playoff series. The team said Anderson was excused “as he deals with the reported investigation” and declined further comment.
The 10th-year pro hasn’t played in the postseason after averaging 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds during the regular season.
Douglas County Sheriff’s spokesman Ron Hanavan confirmed that the search took place. Andersen has not been arrested and Hanavan said no arrest warrant has been issued.
The department began investigating Andersen in February after receiving information from a law enforcement agency in California. Hanavan declined to release details, including the nature of any pending charges, citing an ongoing investigation. He said they’re asking that the case, including the search warrant, be sealed.
Andersen answered the door at his Larkspur, Colo., home, about 40 miles south of Denver, and let deputies in, said Deborah Sherman, another sheriff’s spokesperson.
“He did cooperate. He spoke with deputies,” Sherman said.
The unit investigating Andersen investigates child porn, Internet luring, child predators and child pornography.
The sheriff’s office said it recovered property from Andersen’s home that investigators believe is connected with the case. Sherman said items typically seized by the unit include computers, hard drives, and thumb drives, though she said she could not provide details on what items were seized from Andersen’s home, citing the ongoing investigation.
An arrest is not imminent, Sherman said, saying that it typically takes several weeks to a month for investigators to collect evidence from the seized items.
Mark Bryant, who serves as Andersen’s agent and attorney, said: “At this time, I respect the process and I have no further comment to protect the integrity of everyone involved. We’ll proceed from there.”
A message left at Andersen’s home wasn’t immediately returned.
“For me right now, I think I’m at a stage where I don’t know enough information,” Nuggets coach George Karl said before Thursday night’s game. “I think we all were advised probably not to talk about it until we know the information. The only thing I will say is I trust Chris. In my years with him, he’s been fantastic. I think he’s really grown as a person. We’re going to support him and stand by him.”
Andersen is in his seventh season in Denver, although his playing time dropped dramatically this season as young players gobbled up more minutes.
“He’s been dealt a bad hand by me,” Karl said. “For a guy that’s played great basketball for me and the Nuggets over the years, (he’s) kind of been phased out because of the youth movement, and in the middle of the season is not always fair. I personally think Bird is a very good basketball player, can play for many NBA teams. He could play for us someday, if the situation would open itself up again.”
Karl said he had a chance to speak with Andersen after the morning practice.
“He was emotional. I was in a state where I didn’t think, I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on that,” Karl said.
As for how the news might affect his team on the court, Karl wasn’t quite sure.
“I think enough guys individually have been told what’s going on. I don’t think we have the full information, the full story to analyze or scrutinize,” Karl said. “Like I said before, I trust Bird. I think Bird will figure this out.”
Andersen has a history of helping out charities during his time in Denver and New Orleans, where he played from 2004-08. According to the Nuggets’ media guide, Andersen raised money for Mount Saint Vincent, a home for troubled and abused children, and was honored at the home’s 2009 Silver Bell Ball. He’s also involved with Alliance for Choice in Education, which provides scholarships for low-income families to use in private schools.
His middle name is Claus, and he dressed up as Santa to raise money for ACE in 2009, according to his media guide bio. He also helped with hunger initiatives while with the Hornets.
With his colorful tattoos and high-flying, shot-blocking act, Andersen has long been a favorite with the fans in the Mile High City.
Andersen began his career in Denver in 2001, before bolting to New Orleans three seasons later. He had a breakout season with the Hornets in 2004-05, only to have his career derailed by drugs. He was kicked out of the NBA on Jan. 27, 2006, for violating the league’s drug policy.
Following a ban that lasted more than two years, Andersen returned to New Orleans late in 2008, playing in five games and blocking four shots.
Andersen then rejoined Denver for the 2008-09 season, providing a spark off the bench and swatting 175 shots in the regular season. His play around the rim helped the Nuggets make a run to the Western Conference finals, where they fell to the Lakers in six games.
Andersen parlayed that big season into a five-year deal he signed with Denver in July 2009.