Sixers 79, Bulls 78 (PHI wins 4-2)

It was a tough way to go out. That’s all you can really say about the manner in which the Chicago Bulls lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 6 at Wells Fargo Center.

Injuries to Chicago’s key players had all about eliminated any championship aspirations they held, but even without Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, and with Luol Deng and Taj Gibson at less than 100 percent, the Bulls still should have been able to push the series to a deciding Game 7 on the United Center floor.

But it was not to be.

Sticking to the pattern of their previous three losses, Chicago lost the game in the fourth quarter—although in Game 6, with seconds ticking away on the clock to secure the lead, some questionable decision-making on the part of backup point guard CJ Watson is ultimately what led to the Bulls demise.

Watson took some bad shots throughout the game, going 2-11 from the field and finishing with 6 points. But with the Bulls nursing a one-point lead with seconds to go in regulation and the Sixers trying to foul intentionally in the backcourt, instead of waiting until the foul came so that he could go to the free throw line and ice the ganme, Watson dribbled the length of the floor (after a no-call on a Jrue Holiday intentional foul) and passed the ball off to Omer Asik, who was fouled on a shot attempt at the rim.

It was another episode of “when the right basketball play goes wrong” and worth noting that Omer Asik is a 46 percent free throw shooter, while Watson shoots 81 percent.

Asik—as expected—bricked both free-throws, and Andre Iguodala secured the rebound, dribbled the length of the floor, was subsequently fouled by Asik and drained his two free throws to seal the Sixers victory.

Gone fishin’, just like that.

Aside from Watson’s mental lapse, Carlos Boozer picked a bad night to have his worst offensive game of the series. Boozer was 1-11 from the field and was benched in favor of Taj Gibson in the fourth quarter. $80 million just doesn’t buy what it used to.

Game 6 was a mirror of Chicago’s entire first-round series: what could go wrong, did go wrong. Now the Bulls have a long time to think about it. —Bryan Crawford (@_BryanCrawford)

Celtics 83, Hawks 80 (BOS wins 4-2)

The city of Atlanta has a not-so-secret lil’ secret: its teams suck in big games. Over the last five years, in fact, Georgia Tech’s football and basketball teams, the Falcons, Braves and Hawks have combined for a rather tragic 21-40 record in Playoff, Bowl and NCAA Tournament games. Needless to say, the Georgia capital has come to expect disappointment on the most important stages.

By the first timeout of Game 6 though, this semi-pleasant thought had to pop into Hawks fans’ heads: “Well, at least Atlanta decided to show up.” A 23-20 first-quarter lead was worlds better than the last visit to Beantown, a 101-79 trouncing on Sunday. In Thursday’s first half, Marvin Williams had 11 points and Josh Smith grabbed a gang of rebounds. The early turnovers hurt their cause, but the team stayed active and aggressive. Then again, so too did Paul Pierce (12 first-half points), MVP of the series, and Kevin Garnett (11 first-half points), MVP of the game. 47-41 Boston at the break.

With Atlanta’s recent sports struggles hovering above TD Garden, you couldn’t help but wonder when the Hawks would throw in the towel. KG (28 points, 14 boards, 5 blocks) and the Celtics did keep slugging in the second half, but Marvin (16 points), Joe Johnson (17 points) and Al Horford (15 points, 9 rebounds) took every punch. The team just would not fall. Maybe, just maybe, this one was gonna finally turn out differently for the Ha… Alas, in typical Atlanta fashion, Josh Smith drew a tech for arguing with the ref from the sideline. The team would still keep it tight, even take a brief 79-76 lead, but the combination of KG, PP and good ol’ made free throws was simply too much to overcome.

Some will look at Josh’s two blunders—his other mistake was an ill advised 20-footer that clanked late in the contest—or Al’s missed free throw as the reasons for the loss. Some will insist Joe going scoreless in the fourth quarter was the problem. Most will just say the Celts were the better team and rightfully deserve to play Philly in the Eastern Conference semis. All of that sounds great, but the city of Atlanta knows the real reason the Hawks’ season is over—because it’s the Hawks! They weren’t supposed to win. No team from Atlanta is ever supposed to win. The quicker we all realize that, the quicker we can get over the Braves, Falcons and Yellow Jackets failing when it counts most in a few months. –DeMarco Williams (@demarcowill)

Nuggets 113, Lakers 96 (Series tied 3-3)

It didn’t take long. The Denver Nuggets came out and punched the Lakers in the mouth on Thursday night, sprinting to a 12-0 lead to start the game, never giving up their lead and forcing a Game 7 after a decisive 113-96 victory. Denver point guard Ty Lawson hit four 3-pointers in the first quarter for the Nuggets, finishing with a career Playoff-high 32 points. “They blitzkrieged us at the start of the game,” Kobe Bryant said.

Bryant—who played the game with a stomach virus that caused him to miss the team’s morning shoot around—posted an honorable effort with 31 points, but his teammates struggled for the most part. “Kobe, being dehydrated, sick as a dog and trying to will us to a win, it’s disappointing to watch him give that kind of effort and we don’t get it from everybody,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said. “Our second- and third-best players are Drew and Pau and both those guys have to play better in order for us to win.”

The closest the Lakers came was within four (in the second quarter) but by the third, Denver had extended their lead to 18 and reality set in. The Lakers bigs struggled again, Andrew Bynum finishing with 11 points and 16 rebounds for LA while Pau Gasol had his worst game of the series, taking his first shot of the game in the second half and shooting 1-10 from the floor for 3 points.

Kenneth Faried did a great job on Gasol and was a major spark, adding 15 points and 11 rebounds. “There’s no way I thought what happened tonight was going to happen,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “This game belongs to the players.” L.A. will have forward Metta World Peace back in the lineup for Game 7 now that his NBA-mandated suspension has been fulfilled. “I expect him to come out and play with the tenacity that he’s known for,” Bryant said of Artest.

“He’s the one guy that I can rely on night in and night out to compete and play hard and play with a sense of urgency and play with no fear. So, I’m looking forward to having him by my side again.” Game 7 is Saturday at Staples Center. —Nima Zarrabi (@NZbeFree)