There was NBA playoff joy for the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics on Thursday as they each advanced to the second round with last-gasp home wins to close out their respective series 4-2.
The 76ers edged the injury-hit Chicago Bulls 79-78 to reach the Eastern Conference semi-finals for the first time in nine years while the Celtics battled past the Atlanta Hawks 83-80 after finishing with a commanding 7-1 run.
In Philadelphia, with just 2.2 seconds remaining, Andre Iguodala kept his cool to score with two free throws and then blocked a three-point attempt by guard C.J. Watson for the 76ers to clinch the best-of-seven series.
Iguodala finished with 20 points while guards Jrue Holiday and Louis Williams each contributed 14 as eighth-seeded Philadelphia booked their place in the next round where they will take on fourth-seeded Boston.
Luol Deng and Richard Hamilton both weighed in with 19 points for the top-seeded Bulls who were without the injured MVP Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.
The Bulls trailed the 76ers 48-40 at halftime but, with Deng and Hamilton each beginning to play a hot hand, they clawed their way back to tie the score at 63-63 going into the final quarter.
Desperately striving to avoid elimination, Chicago then went ahead 70-65 but Philadelphia refused to buckle on their home court.
A driving layup by Thaddeus Young helped the 76ers cut the deficit to 77-78 with seven seconds remaining before Chicago center Omer Asik missed two free throws which would have given his team welcome breathing room.
Iguodala then coolly found the basket with his two free throws to earn the 76ers a place in the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2003 when they beat New Orleans 4-2.
In Boston, Kevin Garnet scored a game-high 28 points along with 14 rebounds and five blocked shots as the Celtics broke Hawks’ hearts with their late flourish.
Trailing 76-79, Boston took control with a Paul Pierce layup, a Garnett turnaround jump shot and a Ray Allen free throw followed by two Pierce free throws while Atlanta missed several late scoring chances.
Pierce ended up with 18 points and guard Rajon Rondo with 14 as Boston narrowly outshot Atlanta by a percentage of 41.9 to 41 from the field.
Forward Josh Smith led the way for the Hawks with 18 points while guard Joe Johnson contributed 17.