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Sixers would like to forget miracle from Nets' Harris

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Because of the pervasiveness of ESPN and other cable-sports outlets that have loads of time to fill, certain shots will live forever in buzzer-beating highlight packages.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Because of the pervasiveness of ESPN and other cable-sports outlets that have loads of time to fill, certain shots will live forever in buzzer-beating highlight packages.

No one can speculate how long current and future NBA fans will be watching replays of the 47-foot answered prayer New Jersey Nets guard Devin Harris tossed up here on Feb. 23 to beat the 76ers, but Tony DiLeo suspects it will turn up on television screens near you for a very long time.

"That was an incredible shot," the Sixers' coach said of Harris' long heave, which left his hand with maybe a tenth of a second remaining and gave the Nets a 98-96 victory. "But we can blame ourselves. We missed a lot of free throws in that game. It really shouldn't have come down to that shot from halfcourt."

True, the Sixers made Harris' desperate heave relevant by sinking only 23 of 37 free throws in an eminently winnable game, but he is looking at the situation as a coach would. For TV viewers, the prelude to any big moment counts only for so much. All that really matters is the drama of the moment itself.

The Sixers put themselves ahead for the final time when Andre Iguodala made one of two free throw attempts with 1.8 seconds remaining to make it 96-95. But 1.8 seconds was all that the Nets needed for Harris - who finished with 39 points - to receive the inbounds pass, turn, dribble, bobble the ball off the chest of Iguodala, who was guarding him while trying not to commit a foul, get the ball back and fire up a parabola that found the bottom of the net.

Official Violet Palmer immediately signaled that the shot was taken after the final buzzer, but the head of the officiating crew, Derrick Stafford, called her and the third official, Pat Fraher, over to review the tape. After a 2 1/2-minute delay, they ruled that Harris had beaten the clock by a fraction of a second.

"You have one team jumping up and down like they're winning; we're jumping up and down like we're winning. You really have to pray at that point," Harris said of the delay in determining whose prayer had been heard in hoops heaven.

Iguodala was adamant then that the shot couldn't possibly have been good - "There were too many things that went on in a small amount of time for that shot to be good," he said - and he still feels that way.

But time marches on, and yesterday's miracle has a tendency to become tomorrow's memory. Heading into last night's game at the IZOD Center, the Sixers had punched their ticket to the Eastern Conference playoffs, going 13-7 since Harris made magic. The Nets were only 6-13, on the verge of playoff elimination and left only with the satisfaction that a tenth of a second is indeed long enough to turn a loss into a victory.

For DiLeo, though, the Nets have been an irritant for reasons that extend beyond Harris' highlight-reel heave. They went into last night's game 3-0 against the Sixers, with a chance to sweep the season series. In one of those victories, an 85-83 squeaker on Jan. 31 at the Wachovia Center, the Sixers scored only eight points in the fourth quarter and missed their last 18 shots in the period.

The fourth quarter of that game most certainly won't be on any highlight packages.

"I don't know if it's a matchup problem or what, but they're 3-0 against us and we definitely don't want them to sweep us," DiLeo said before last night's game.

Six shots

Sixers individual home first-round playoff games at the Wachovia Center go on sale Wednesday at 10 a.m. at, at 800-298-4200, or in person at the Wachovia Center box office . . . Tony DiLeo, still harboring hopes of securing the Eastern Conference's fourth seed, said his goal is to "win every one" of the team's remaining games, but he is concerned that small forward Andre Iguodala is logging too many minutes. In the two games power forward Thaddeus Young has missed with a sprained right ankle, both victories, Iguodala was on the floor for 87 minutes, 31 seconds. *