In the second half of yesterday's 95-90 win over the Detroit Pistons, 76ers coach Tony DiLeo refused to remove either of his two best players from the Wachovia Center court.

The game was too important, Andre Iguodala and Andre Miller were too effective.

"We took a little gamble," DiLeo said. "We felt like we had to keep them in there to control the game."

They certainly did. Iguodala scored a season-high 31 points and Miller recorded a triple-double: 21 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds as the Sixers (40-35) clinched a playoff berth. They are in fifth place and lead the Miami Heat (41-36) by percentage points.

They swept this three-game homestand and, starting tonight against the New Jersey Nets, now face three on the road. The Pistons, led by Rodney Stuckey's 23 points, fell to 36-40.

"That was one of our goals, but it's not a goal we're going to get really excited about," DiLeo said about the playoff berth. "We have higher goals, higher expectations, but this was one of them and we accomplished it."

The Sixers bookended strong quarters - the first and the last - and made enough free throws, 7 of 9 in the last 2 minutes, 2 seconds, to slip away.

The most important of those free throws came from forward Reggie Evans, who was fouled with 30.8 seconds left and the Sixers leading, 90-88.

As Evans walked to the line, Miller mimicked a high release. Evans practiced. A few seconds later, Evans, who entered the game shooting a career-high 61.3 percent from the line, made both.

"He always kids about he wants to shoot the technicals," deadpanned DiLeo. "So he's been working hard on free throws."

Iguodala's effort reflected the Sixers'. Iguodala sandwiched two big-time scoring quarters around two quiet quarters. Iguodala scored 15 in the first, 12 in the fourth, and four total in the middle two.

In that fourth quarter, Iguodala, guarded at times by Tayshaun Prince, at others by Walter Herrmann, demonstrated all sides of his offensive game.

First, he caught the ball at the top of the key, eyed an active Herrmann like he was his younger brother, and then rose for a three-pointer. Next, without the ball, Iguodala started on the block and prepared to use a down screen. He took a quick step like he was cutting to the left wing, watched Herrmann slip the screen, then backdoored for an alley-oop slam.

Herrmann, all energy and no results, switched off Iguodala. Prince switched on.

DiLeo knew, on the first night of a back-to-back, offering no rest to his main guys was risky.

It worked.

"I told him I felt fine," Miller said. "This game was important."

"It's really sweet the way this has gone," Iguodala said. "From getting counted out to being right back into position and clinching a playoff spot."

Playoff Tickets Go on Sale Wednesday

Individual tickets for the 76ers' first-round playoff games at the Wachovia Center go on sale at 10 a.m. Wednesday

at Sixers.com, 1-800-298-4200 or in person at the Wachovia Center box office.

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