The Philadelphia 76ers clinched a playoff spot for the second consecutive year Monday night by handily beating the New Jersey Nets, 105-87. The win guarantees a winning record for the Sixers for the first time in seven seasons. At 34-30, the Sixers are tied with the New York Knicks for the seven seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Sixers finished with a 41-41 record in 2010-11 and garnered the seven seed before losing to the Miami Heat in a five games. They're on pace to repeat that fate, but although they may never get to a championship level by getting seven and eight seeds and lining up to get slaughtered in the first round, it's difficult to root for their failure. There is a growing contention in Philadelphia that it would be better if the Sixers had not qualified for the playoffs. If they had a ball in the lottery they'd at least have a chance of getting an Anthony Davis, but the reality is those odds would be awfully small. It's important for the youth of this team to continue to get playoff experience. The Sixers could choose to use the amnesty rule in the offseason to get rid of Elton Brand which would clear 17 million in cap space. They also would gain $6.65 million from jettisoning Andres Nocioni. That leaves space for the Sixers to bring in a free agent.
The Sixers jumped off to a 20-9 start against lesser competition this season. They are 14-21 since, which would explain much of the fan base hoping for a lottery pick. One of the positive aspects of their game early on was that you didn't know who would beat you on a given night. They are deep and their bench provides as much scoring as their starters.
Point guard Jrue Holiday has been inconsistent. The Sixers best all-around player, Andre Iguodala, at times refuses to take the ball to the rim. Evan Turner has had issues with head coach Doug Collins at times and has been wildly undependable.
Monday night the Sixers took control early on and fought off a couple of second half charges by the Nets, who were playing their last home game in New Jersey before moving to Brooklyn next season. Iguodala led the way with 14 points, 7 boards and 9 assists. Thaddeus Young and Elton Brand both dropped 15 for the Sixers.
Now that they're in, the Sixers will watch the standings to determine who they'll play. It will most likely be the Bulls or the Heat, although they are two games behind Orlando for the sixth spot.
Pete Lieber is a freelance writer and a Philadelphia sports enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter at @Lieber14.
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