NEWARK, N.J. - Before Monday night's 105-87 victory over the New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins said that his team had to play with a sense of desperation, knowing that an NBA Eastern Conference playoff berth was hanging in the balance.
"We have to play like it's a playoff game," Collins said. "We've had to play nine of our last 11 on the road and we have to come out and do it on the road. We can't poo-poo the fact that this is really the playoffs for us right now. A lot of teams are going home. We don't want to."
"We have three games left," guard Jrue Holiday said. "We have to think all three are playoff games."
The Sixers definitely played with that sense of urgency, jumping to an early first-half lead, withstanding an energetic Nets' run in the third quarter, then pulling away in the fourth quarter.
Led by Thaddeus Young, who scored all 15 of his points in the second half, making his first seven shots, the Sixers (34-30) clinched the last berth in the NBA Eastern Conference playoffs with the victory in the Nets' final home game ever in New Jersey.
It marked the second straight year that Philadelphia clinched a playoff berth, and the Sixers ended their run in the Garden State by winning the last six times they played the Nets on the road.
Young keyed a balanced scoring attack, as six Sixers reached double figures in scoring, three of whom scoring 15 points each. Holiday also scored 15 points and had four assists. Elton Brand had 15 points. Andre Iguodala added 14 points, including two highlight-film dunks in the first half. Evan Turner scored 12 off the bench. Lou Williams added 11 in the victory.
The Nets (22-43) were paced by rookie MarShon Brooks, who had 18 points. Kris Humphries had 16 points and 12 rebounds for New Jersey, which finished its final season in New Jersey with a dismal 9-24 home record. The Nets played once again without All-Star guard Deron Williams, out with a sore right calf.
The Nets produced some inspired play at the start of their New Jersey home finale, especially hearing "Let's Go Nets" chants and hearing applause rather than boos.
However, the good feeling was short lived, as the Sixers outscored the Nets, 13-0, over a span of 2:06 to take a double-digit lead at 15-5 with 7:15 remaining in the first half. It was a problem that the Nets faced all season long at home, falling behind by double digits in the first period and trying desperately to come back afterward.
Philadelphia's Jodie Meeks scored five points during that span and capped the run with a long 3-pointer to give the Sixers the 10-point lead.
The Sixers pushed the lead to 27-13 on two consecutive baskets by Spencer Hawes with 1:07 remaining in the period, and they led, 31-18, at the end of the period. The Sixers shot 60 percent (12-of-20) in the first period, compared with just 31 percent for the Nets (7-for-22).
The Nets sliced the lead to 31-22 on a driving basket by Gerald Wallace, before Turner canned two straight jump shots to push the lead back to 35-22. The game remained one-sided throughout the first half. The Sixers led by as many as 15 (39-24) on a dunk by Brand off a Turner miss with 8:13 remaining.
Iguodala scored 12 points in the first half, including two thunderous breakaway dunks. Brand had 10 and Holliday added nine for the Sixers, who led, 53-43, at the half.
Brooks paced the Nets with nine points at intermission, which featured a presentation involving several of the great Nets players who played for the team in its 35-year history in New Jersey.