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Sixers rout Nets, clinch playoff birth

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The outcome was almost never in doubt.  Despite two half-hearted runs by the Nets, first pulling them to within four early in the second quarter then pulling back to within 11 early in the third, the Sixers responded well each time.  The result was a them a wire-to-wire win, and a birth in the NBA playoffs for the third time in four years.

There was a lot of credit to go around during this game, as there has been all season.  Andre Iguodala started off scorching, scoring 12 points in the games first 6 minutes to set the tone.  He would go on to score only 2 more points -- a pair of free throws late in the 3rd quarter -- during his remaining 26 minutes on the court, instead opting for the role of setup main.  Iguodala recorded 7 assists to no turnovers during the game, leading an overall team effort in taking care of the ball.  The Sixers had near 3-1 assist to turnover ratio for the game -- a number that would be great for a point guard, but incredible for an entire team.

Jrue Holiday (17 points on 12 shots, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 turnover), Elton Brand (21 points on 12 shots, 7 rebounds),  Thaddeus Young (22 points on 12 shots in just under 24 minutes, 5 rebounds, 3 steals), and Louis Williams (13 points on 7 shots, 5 assists, 0 turnovers) all provided major contributions in helping the Sixers lock up the playoff birth.  The Sixers sit 2.5 games ahead of the Knicks with 6 to play, including a pivotal game against New York next Wednesday that could all but lock up the 6th spot.  The Sixers magic number to clinch the 7th spot is 1.

Overall, this was a night not about the individual performances, but in what the team has accomplished since the horrid 3-13 start.  Check after the jump for some quotes on that, among other topics, as well as some notes and thoughts on the game.

Quotables

On the turnaround:

Thaddeus Young:

"Clinching the playoffs, from where we came at 3-13, is definitely big. A lot of people thought we were out for the count, and now we're back in the mix of things and we're ready to go."

Elton Brand:

"3-13, it definitely felt like "here we go again", even though we lost some close games. It felt tough, and it was disappointing, but we fought out of it. So to have 40 wins with a few games left, it's a special feeling."

Doug Collins:

"I think [Iguodala's] voice, when we were 3-13, Andre was an uplifting voice at the time, when we were pretty rock bottom at that point."

 

"Did I think we could be where we are now [after the 3-13 start]? I wasn't sure, but I sure hadn't given up hope. We weren't going to change what we were doing, because I believe in what we're doing. I believe that when you do the things we're doing, that good things will happen. So, We weren't going to change, and I think the guys knew me well enough to know that I'm pretty stubborn, and that the way to the playing floor was to competitive, be unselfish, work hard and defend, and be a good teammate."

On Andre Iguodala:

Doug Collins:

"He's one of the most unselfish players I've ever been around. I've never seen a guy who gets more excited for kicking the ball to a guy and hitting a shot than he does...I think he really feels good about the development of Jrue and Jodie. I think he sees those two young guys, and I think he really is excited about how well they have played, and how much basketball they have ahead of them."

Andre Iguodala (his response to Doug's comment):

"With the personnel we have, you need a guy on the floor who has to play unselfish [basketball]. We have a lot of guys whose confidence is based on making shots. I'm out there to help them to be the best basketball players and the most effective basketball players while they're on the court."

On what this means for Elton Brand:

Thaddeus Young:

"I'm very happy for Elton. A great guy like that, he should definitely be in the playoffs more than one time. It's definitely big for him."

Andre Iguodala: 

"Well, I'm glad that he's made [the playoffs] with me. That means a lot to me. As far as him on another team...I don't feel sorry for anybody that's not on my team. As a teammate of his and playing with him, this will be the third year, getting to know him....it makes it special."

Doug Collins: 

"If there's anybody who's about Philadelphia, it's EB. He's blue collar, he's undersized, he's overachieving, he's hard working, he's played through injuries, he's done everything we've asked...He's a hell of a man."

Elton Brand: 

"For me to come here, finally get in, and be an integral part of it, I'm elated right now."

On the teams character:

Andre Iguodala:

"All the guys played hard. We don't have too many egos. We have a lot of guys who like to score, but we don't have many egos. Everybody wants to win, and most of the guys love to play the game, so they play hard every night...It's good to see them in a position where they work hard for something, and it finally came."

Doug Collins: 

"It's really about heart, and competitiveness, and will to want to make something happen. And that's what I have in that locker room, a wonderful group of guys."

"We're a team that enjoys playing with one another. Guys like to be in the gym. I haven't fined one guy all season long. Everybody's been on time, they've gotten in, they've done their work. And so it's been a real joy for me."

On last year:

Thaddeus Young:

"Last year left a funny taste in my mouth, it left a funny taste in everybody's mouth, so we're definitely ready to go out here and get the job done."

Young:

"There was a time last year where 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. We're back into the playoffs, we're back in the mix of things, and we're ready to go."

Avery Johnson

On his big men:

"They both are 5's. Because, I don't want to designate anybody as 4. So they're two 5's, because if I designate somebody as 4's it may entice them to shoot more jump shots. We're trying to entice them to get inside a little bit more, so nobody is going to be designated at 4. The bad part about it is I don't have a relationship with the public address announcer so I can introduce both of them as centers."

Funny moment of the night:

Avery Johnson, when talking about the Sixers, had high praise of Thaddeus Young:

"I think if [Thaddeus Young] didn't have the type of year he's had, I don't think they'd be a playoff team. I think he's the MVP of the team, because of the bind that he puts you in. You go small on him, he can post you up. You go big on him, he isolates you."

Young responded with the diplomatic answer ("It feels very good that the hard work is appreciated."), then as the reporters were walking away, muttered "he's crazy".

Notes:

  • Two of the Sixers past three games have been wire to wire wins.
  • The Sixers swept the season series with the Nets for the second consecutive year.
  • The Sixers have scored 100 or more points in 12 of the last 16 games, averaging nearly 104 points/game at 47% shooting during that stretch.  
  • Elton Brand's 21 points ended a rough patch for him, as he had averaged just 11 points/game over the previous seven games.
  • Thaddeus Young has scored 20 or more points in 3 straight games, and is averaging 17 points/game on 58.1% from the field over his previous 7.
  • Jrue Holiday is playing incredibly efficient basketball over that same stretch.  16.1 points on 51.6% from the field, 41.2% from 3, and 94% from the line.  7.6 assists to only 2.3 turnovers.  Igoudala, Holiday, and Williams are coming to average 18.1 assists to 6.4 turnovers over the last 7.
  • Deron Williams was only in his second game back after returning from his injured wrist.  He said he felt fine after the game, but it seemed his minutes were limited, playing only 15 minutes in the first half despite having only one foul, and it may be partly to blame (along with Jrue Holiday's defense), for his season low 4 point output.  He's shooting only 32.8% as a New Jersey Net.

Seeding watch:

Atlanta, New York, Boston, and Miami all have off.  Miami won last night for the 7th time in 8 games, while Boston blew a late lead, putting Miami a half game ahead of the Celtics for the second seed.  Barring a drastic finish to the end of the season, the Sixers more than likely will play the third seed in the first round of the playoffs.

Player of the game: Jrue Holiday

Opponent blogNetsDaily

Next up: @ Milwaukee, tonight

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