Sixers destroy Nets to clinch postseason berth


Friday, April 1, 2011
Posted: 9:15 p.m.Updated: 10:43 p.m.

By Reuben Frank


A year ago, they were one of the worst teams in the NBA. They won just 27 games. They finished 28 games under .500. They sputtered to the eighth-worst winning percentage in the franchises proud 62-year history.

Today, with virtually the same players, the 76ers are headed to the playoffs.

Which tells you a lot about Eddie Jordan. And tells you even more about Doug Collins.

Last year left a funny taste in my mouth, forward Thaddeus Young said. It left a funny taste in everybodys mouth.

There was a time last year that I was like, We need to make some changes in order to get our mentality back. Once we made those changes, look at us now. Back in the playoffs and were ready to go.

Young scored 22 points in just 20 minutes and Elton Brand added 21 points in 30 minutes and just one year after going 27-55, the Sixers clinched a playoff berth with a 115-90 win over the Nets Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

We have loftier goals now that were in, Brand said. We did it on our own merits. Especially where we came from, 3-13.

The Sixers led by as much as 35 midway through the fourth quarter before Collins emptied his bench.

Its exciting, said Brand, back in the postseason for only the second time in 12 NBA seasons. Im pumped up. Im pumped up for the city. Im pumped up for the young guys. I think we can do some damage.

The Sixers are now 40-36 in Collins first year as head coach and 37-23 since a 3-13 start. Their .617 winning percentage since Nov. 27 is eighth-best in the NBA and fourth-best in the East.

After winning just 12 home games last year, the Sixers are 25-12 at home this year. If they win out, their 29 home wins will be their most since the 1990 team went 34-7.

The Sixers are just the third NBA team since 1955 to reach the playoffs without a single player averaging 15 points per game.

What a great night for our group, Collins said. To get this tonight in front of our home fans is such an accomplishment. ... We now know that we are in the playoffs, and we want to keep winning. We want to see what we can do.

This is the first time the Sixers have been four games over .500 since they were 40-36 with six games left in the 2009 season.

A win in Milwaukee Saturday will lift the 76ers five games over .500 for the first time in nearly eight yearssince they finished the 2003 season 48-34.

With six games left, the Sixers are 2 games ahead of the Knicks for the No. 6 seed. Their magic number to clinch at worst the seventh seed is one and to clinch the six seed is five.

Were supposed to be here, Andre Iguodala said. Lets continue to try to get better. The biggest thing is for Elton and myself to really stay on the guys to have a purpose every night.

We still have six games to finish up. Still got to go out there and play hard. You want to be playing good basketball going into the playoffs.

This is the ninth time in the last 12 years the 76ers have reached the playoffs and the first time since the 2008-2009 season. They havent won a playoff series since 2003, when they topped the New Orleans Hornets in the first round. Theyve lost four consecutive series since.

We dont want to get there and get swept, Jodie Meeks said. When we get to the playoffs, we want to make a statement. Play hard and play the way were capable of and dont let people take us out of what we want to do.

What Iguodala and Brand began telling their young teammates Friday night is that getting to the playoffs isnt enough.

Thats the message, Brand said. Its nice to be here, congratulations, but theres no bottle popping or anything like that. We have a bigger goal in mind, and thats to win a series and compete on the next level.

We beat the top two teams in the East, the Bulls, we beat Boston, so we ... know we can play with any team out there right now.

In franchise history, the Sixers have reached the postseason in 47 of 62 seasons, including 33 of 48 seasons since moving to Philadelphia.

Iguodala scored 12 of his 14 points in the first six minutes of the game and added seven assists, two blocked shots and three rebounds in 31 minutes.

Jrue Holiday made eight of 12 shots for 17 points and added seven assists and six rebounds. Lou Williams scored 13 on 5-for-7 shooting in just 23 minutes.

The Sixers made 45 of 80 shots, for 56 percent; their third-highest shooting percentage this year.

The Nets shot just 44 percent and made just three of 12 three-pointers.

This is not about stats or anything tonight, Collins said. This is just really about heart and competitiveness and the will to want to make something happen. Thats what I have in that locker room. Just a wonderful group of guys. I love coaching them.

The Sixers led by four early in the second quarter before outscoring the Nets 31-18 the rest of the quarter to build a 17-point halftime lead. The lead was 11 when they went on a 17-6 tear to take a 24-point lead and turn the game into a laugher.

They cut it to 11 in the third quarter and then we made that big surge to really break the game open, Collins said. Everybody was involved.

The 25-point margin of victory was the 76ers largest against the Nets in 15 years, since a 107-80 win at the Meadowlands on Jan. 12, 1996.

The Nets fell to 23-52 with their ninth loss in their last 10 games. This is their fourth straight year out of the playoffs and fifth in a row without a winning record.

You see guys like (Nets guard) Deron Williams tonight or another guy on another team when they dont even have a chance and theyre not in the playoffs and theyre not playing for anything, Brand said. Just to be playing for something right now, Im very appreciate for all the hard work the young guys and coach put in.

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