Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

76ers clinch playoff spot with win over Nets

There was no euphoria among the 76ers.

Nets center Brook Lopez is unable to block Elton Brand's dunk attempt. (H. Rumph Jr/AP Photo)
Nets center Brook Lopez is unable to block Elton Brand's dunk attempt. (H. Rumph Jr/AP Photo)Read more

There was no euphoria among the 76ers.

There might have been a touch of relief, some happiness to finally have the logistics behind them. But the Sixers' celebration felt subdued, modest, almost as if this - a playoff berth - was not the destination, but rather a necessary step along the path.

The margin of victory certainly dulled the jubilation.

The Sixers were assured of a playoff spot nearly an hour before the final buzzer sounded in Friday night's 115-90 win over the New Jersey Nets at the Wells Fargo Center. Any excitement was stretched across two quarters instead of bottled into one explosive moment.

But mostly, this team seems primed for more.

In the moments after the game, Sixers coach Doug Collins mentioned possibly ending this regular season on a winning streak.

No champagne. No tears. No embracing.

"The celebration is over," Sixers guard Lou Williams said at 9:45 p.m., about 20 minutes after the final buzzer. "We're excited to be back in the playoffs, but we're a long way from being done."

With six games remaining in the regular season, the Sixers improved to 40-36. They officially have clinched a playoff berth, although their seeding will be determined in the next two weeks. The Nets, who trailed by as many as 35 points and rolled over just after breaking a sweat, dropped to 23-52.

The Sixers showered, dressed, packed their bags, and headed for the airport. On Saturday night they will play at the Milwaukee Bucks.

"I think it's important for us to continue to play and not get relaxed," Williams said. "It's always hard to turn the machine on after you turn it off, so I hope the guys lock in for the last five or six. But it's good to have that confirmation."

And on a night when their status as a playoff team was established, you couldn't help but glance back at the beginning: a 3-13 record on Nov. 26.

"By nature, I'm an optimist," Collins said. "I try to look for the good things. . . . Did I think we could be where we are now? I wasn't sure, but I sure hadn't given up hope. We weren't going to change what we were doing."

The statistics Friday night, which seemed inconsequential next to the end result, included 22 points from Thaddeus Young and 21 from Elton Brand. The Sixers led by 17 at halftime and by 29 at the end of the third quarter.

"It's not about stats or anything," Collins said. "It's really about heart and competitiveness and will, and wanting to make something happen. And that's what I have in that locker room."

After the game, Collins singled out Brand and swingman Andre Iguodala, lavishing praise on his two leaders, whom he called "models of consistency."

Iguodala seemed more loquacious than usual, but that was the only indication of excitement or redemption.

"For myself, I feel like it's what we're supposed to do," Iguodala said of the playoff berth. "We're supposed to be here."

And that's exactly how everyone acted.