Once the 76ers figured out that the way to beat Chicago was to get up and down the court, scrambling the Bulls offense - as they did in their out-of-this-world performance in Game 2 - the Bulls put the clamps to the Sixers.

After the Sixers lost Game 5, coach Doug Collins did not want to have to put his team back on a plane and return to Chicago, where the Bulls had bullied the Sixers - pretty much Collins' own words - in winning Tuesday.

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And now, after absorbing a physical beating and holding on for a victory, they won't have to.

By beating the Bulls, the Sixers became just the fifth eighth-seeded team in NBA history to knock off the top seed and advance in the playoffs. Denver, Golden State, New York, and Memphis, which upset San Antonio last season, were the others.

With the victory, the Sixers will face the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals beginning in Boston..

The Sixers are advancing because they got superior guard play throughout the series.

When Chicago's Derrick Rose went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament before the teams even got out of Game 1, it immediately seemed as if the Sixers had the clear advantage in the backcourt. That was the case again Thursday as the Sixers' top three guards outperformed the Bulls' rotation.

Jrue Holiday, just 21, has continued to emerge as the best player on the team in these playoffs. Lou Williams led the Sixers in scoring this season without making a single start, and Evan Turner, from a physical standpoint, was just too big for the smaller Chicago guards.

While the Sixers have gotten a few decent performances out of Spencer Hawes, for the most part it was the Sixer guards who carried them to the second round.

After the Bulls lost Rose, it stood to reason that Coatesville native Richard Hamilton, with more playoff experience than any other player in the series, would be called upon to carry most of the scoring load. But, for whatever reason, Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau opted mostly to use players such as Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson, who has started in place of the injured Rose, and his backup, John Lucas III, instead of Hamilton.

Hamilton looked to get his mojo back in the second half of Thursday's game, particularly in the third quarter when he scored 10 points and helped the Bulls rally from 12 down to tie the score heading into the fourth quarter.

Of the Bulls' three primary guards, only Lucas proved to be problematic for the Sixers, who did a good job of taking away the perimeter threat of the Bulls throughout the series.

Contact staff writer John N. Mitchell at jmitchell@philly.com. Follow him on Twitter @JmitchInquirer