It may not have gone the way Doug Collins envisioned it, but the Philadelphia 76ers (34-30) are back in the playoffs for the second straight year with a 105-87 win over the lowly New Jersey Nets. They're currently on a three-game win streak, their longest such run since early March.
Philadelphia dominated the game by dominating the first and last periods, outscoring the Nets 60-37 in the first and fourth quarters combined.
A quick Nets run had them up 5-2 early on, but then the 76ers made their move, going on a 13-0 run to take a double-digit lead midway through the quarter. They would go on to trade buckets with the Nets for the rest of the quarter, taking a 13-point lead on a Lou Williams buzzer-beater. Williams finished with 11 off the bench.
The most memorable moment was a sweet bounce-pass from rookie Nikola Vucevic to Andre Iguodala for a one-handed jam only two minutes in, putting the road team on the board.
After a back-and-forth second quarter marred by sloppy half-court play, the Nets started clawing back in the third quarter. They went on a 13-2 run midway through the quarter, finished off by a Gerald Wallace jumper that cut the Sixers lead to a mere one, 63-62.
Unfortunately for the Nets, the Sixers simply weren't going to let this one slip away. Back-to-back 17-footers by Thad Young ended the Nets surge and helped the Sixers begin to pull away once again. Young scored 10 of his 15 in the last three-and-a-half minutes of the third quarter, helping the Sixers take an eight-point lead into the final frame.
From there, it was complete and utter domination by Philly. A Williams three-ball with 7:41 extended their lead to 14, and he later put the exclamation point on a big night for the team with a three-ball to close things out.
Who would you rather the Sixers face in Round 1?
For the Sixers, three players—Thaddeus Young, Jrue Holiday, and Elton Brand—led the way with 15, and Iguodala added 14 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds.
New Jersey's star was MarShon Brooks, who had 18 along with center Kris Humphries, who scored 16 while adding 12 rebounds for yet another double-double.
The Sixers are now a tie-breaker behind the Knicks for the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference, but it is arguable whether they'd rather face the first-seeded Bulls or the second-seeded Heat. Many would argue that this year would just be a repeat of last year's 4-1 drubbing at the hands of the Big 3, but Chicago's dominance this year doesn't seem to give the notion that the Sixers would be better off playing in the Windy City.
Now Philadelphia heads to Milwaukee on Wednesday to face a Bucks team they just eliminated from playoff contention. Tip-off is at 8 p.m. on CSN.