During the regular season the Philadelphia 76ers had a terrible record in close games. They lost all eight games decided by four or fewer points.
Why did this happen? There are several reasons.
First, the Sixers are not very good at the half-court game, which typically is how the tight games are decided. Second, they lack bigs in the frontcourt who can post up to get good shots from close range. But most importantly, they have lacked a go-to guy on offense who can take the ball in crunch time and lead the team to victory.
While young players such as Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner have been brilliant in spurts, they have also been bad in spurts, especially in crunch time. Lou Williams can be counted on to quickly turn a four- or five-point lead into a 10-point lead with some quick treys in the fourth quarter. But in a one- or two-point game, he seems to miss the critical shots.
Elton Brand frequently seems to get the ball in his hands 16 feet from the basket with the clock running down, and his awkward shot from that distance rarely hits. Andre Iguodala has been great in the running game and dishing to his teammates. He usually has to cover the opponent's leading scorer on defense and has done a great job at that. But his poor foul shooting, especially in the fourth quarter, has caused an issue in close games.
In the Sixers' most important game of the season, Iguodala stepped up to be the go-to guy when it was needed. When the Sixers hit a dry spell and went over four minutes without scoring between the end of the third period and start of the fourth, he nailed a trey to tie the game at 70 and bring the crowd back to life.
Then, in what will be a highlight film for years in the Sixers' archives, he grabbed Omer Asik's second missed free throw with seven seconds left in the game. Despite being tired from playing the entire second half, he raced past most of the Bulls' defenders, drove for the basket and got fouled. With two seconds left, he hit both of his free throws and sent the Sixers to their first playoff series win since the 2003-2004 season.
For one night, the Sixers found their go-to guy on offense, the guy that has been right there on the team since 2004. Sixers fans can only hope that he can continue this against the Celtics.