Saturday May 12, 2012

WALTHAM -- The Philadelphia 76ers danced in celebration after their first-round upset of the top-seeded Chicago Bulls.

The Boston Celtics plodded off the court after clinching their first-round series, in search of the nearest bucket of ice.

"They were excited. We were relieved," Boston coach Doc Rivers said Friday, the only off-day before the Celtics and Sixers begin the Eastern Conference semifinals tonight. "When the clock went off for us, we were like, ‘Oh my goodness. Let's go to bed.' "

Philadelphia took advantage of a Chicago team missing Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah to become just the fifth No. 8 seed to knock off a No. 1 seed in the NBA playoffs. They celebrated appropriately: Andre Iguodala, who sank the game-winning free throws with 2.2 seconds left, hopped on the scorer's table as the 76ers' anthem blared in the arena and confetti fluttered down from the rafters.

"I don't even know what to say. I really don't. What this means to me, and the organization, and our team. It's just off the charts," coach Doug Collins said afterwards. "Sometimes you just can't figure this out. Sometimes you've just got to enjoy it. That's what I'm sure going to do I can tell you that. It's been an incredible year."

The Celtics eliminated Atlanta in six games, but they aren't ready to celebrate yet. Boston has advanced at least to the second round of the NBA playoffs in every year since the new Big 3 was assembled in the summer of 2007, twice reaching the Finals and winning it all in 2008.

The Sixers had not won a playoff series since 2003, and only a few Sixers have ever gone this far in the postseason.

"I told them, ‘Now we're in the high rent district. Now you start really finding out what it's all about,' " Collins said. "[You] can't put a price on experience, what our guys are gaining every single day. Just to watch the joy that they had in that locker room after the game was something I'll never forget."

Rivers said he didn't expect the 76ers to be a pushover because they were happy just to finally win a playoff series. Sometimes the excitement of that first win can carry a team in later rounds, he said.