Philadelphia fans go wild as 76ers advance to Eastern finals


PHILADELPHIA, AP

Fans flew across the aisles and tackled friends in the stands. Fireworks went off inside the First Union Center. Strangers hugged. Horns honked all the way up Broad Street in the heart of the city. Philadelphia erupted into celebration after the 76ers defeated the Toronto Raptors 88-87 Sunday to advance to their first conference finals since Charles Barkley’s rookie season in 1985. “We’re only the City of Brotherly Love when we win,” said Sixers fan Marcus Quinn. “There was love last night.” Crowds exploded after Toronto’s Vince Carter missed a long shot with two seconds left — giving the Sixers the win. “As soon as he missed it, someone tackled me and a friend and we were just lying on top of the seats,” said Jeromy Jordan, a 25-year old 76ers fan, who has season tickets and bought seats for all the playoff games. “If they had lost it could have gotten ugly. Since they won it was just a big party.” Philadelphia begins the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday in Philadelphia. It will be farthest the team has advanced since Barkley’s 76ers lost to the Boston Celtics in the 1984-85 conference finals. The 76ers have won the NBA championship only three times — in 1955-56 (as the Philadelphia Warriors), 1966-67 and 1982 83. They were eliminated by the Indiana Pacers in the playoffs the last two years and failed to reach the postseason the previous eight years. Tiffany Gamlin said the crowd was frozen as Carter threw up the final shot.”In those last two seconds, you could hear a pin drop in that place,” said Gamlin, 32, of Philadelphia. “I think we finally started breathing at the end of it.” Dara Gordon, 24, said she was so relieved she hugged about 20 strangers in the stands. “I think everyone had been nervous, like they weren’t sure they wanted to look,” she said. After the win, fans swarmed the court as confetti fell and fireworks were set off inside the arena. Still, Jordan said he would have preferred a less dramatic — and suspenseful — victory for the 76ers, which had the best regular season record in the East. “They can’t just be the number 1 seed and win it outright,” Jordan said. “But nothing is ever easy rooting for Philadelphia teams.”