Despite struggling through much of April, the Philadelphia 76ers are looking forward to the opportunity to clinch a spot in the playoffs.
For the New Jersey Nets, the celebration Monday night will be about honoring the past as they prepare for a future in Brooklyn.
The 76ers will try to wrap up a postseason berth and spoil the Nets’ final games in New Jersey on Monday.
Philadelphia (33-30) dropped seven of nine to begin April, but after winning the first two on a season-ending five-game road trip including a 109-106 overtime victory at playoff-bound Indiana on Saturday, can secure a playoff berth as soon as Monday with a win or a Milwaukee loss to Toronto.
The 76ers can also still overtake New York, which they trail by one-half game for the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference.
“I just said, ‘You know, guys, we’ve worked so hard for two years. I would just hate like heck for us to let this season slip away from us,’” coach Doug Collins said. “‘Let’s give ourselves a chance to get into the playoffs. Let’s see what we can do. Let’s do our best.’ And our guys responded.”
While Philadelphia looks to the future, New Jersey (22-42) will honor its past in its final home game in the Garden State after 35 years.
At halftime, the Nets will recognize several former players and coaches while presenting video tributes from those unable to attend.
“The New Jersey Nets have been part of the fabric of sports in this state for more than three decades,” general manager Billy King said in a team press release. “Players such as Buck Williams, Drazen Petrovic, Derrick Coleman, Micheal Ray Richardson, and Jason Kidd all called Jersey home at one point during their careers. The final game on (Monday) will present a fitting tribute to this rich history of NBA basketball in the Garden State.”
That history may be rich, but it hasn’t featured a lot of success. Kidd did lead the Nets to six consecutive postseason berths from 2002-07, including consecutive NBA finals appearances in 2002 and 2003.
Following his departure, however, the Nets fell on hard times, including a 12-win season in 2009-10. This will be the fifth straight season they’ve finish below .500 since their last playoff appearance.
“If there is one word that describes this team’s time in New Jersey, it’s misfortune,” said Herb Turetzky, the team’s official scorer for 45 years, dating back to its days in the ABA. “Every time we seemed to be building something to get up to respectability some crisis came up.”
While the Nets had hopes of building around Deron Williams, picked up in a trade last season, they have been unable to lure a marquee player despite heavily targeting Orlando’s Dwight Howard. Now, they risk losing Williams to free agency.
The point guard has missed the last three games with a sore calf, including a 106-95 loss to the Bucks on Saturday. It’s not certain if he’ll play in any of the final three games.
His potential absence could make it even easier for the 76ers to spoil the celebration Monday. Philadelphia has won five straight visits to New Jersey, including a 107-88 victory April 10.
The Sixers are trying to win three in a row for the first time since early March. Lou Williams finished with 19 points Saturday, including the first seven in overtime, and Elton Brand had team highs of 20 points and nine rebounds.
The victory improved Philadelphia to 1-8 in games decided by four points or fewer.