76ers-Bucks Preview

The Associated Press

This could have been a crucial game in determining which team would earn the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Instead, the Philadelphia 76ers are preparing for their second consecutive postseason while the visiting Milwaukee Bucks are getting ready for another long summer going into their matchup Wednesday night.

Philadelphia (34-30) had a three-game lead over the Bucks (31-33) with three games left for both teams, but would have been eliminated from contention had they finished 0-3 and the Bucks won out.

The 76ers prevented that unlikely scenario from playing out by winning 105-87 at New Jersey on Monday.

Once atop the Atlantic Division, the 76ers are just happy to be in the playoff mix following a 13-23 stretch that preceded their current three-game winning streak.

"Adversity can send you south or make you forge together and be stronger,'' coach Doug Collins said. "... I am so proud of my guys. I really, really am. They answered the bell and when I looked up there with one minute to go and I knew we were going to be in the playoffs, it was a very satisfying feeling.''

Bucks coach Scott Skiles felt very differently about how Monday's games played out. Although Milwaukee defeated Toronto 92-86 that night, a 1-5 stretch that came just before its back-to-back wins proved too much to overcome.

"I'm disappointed - very disappointed,'' Skiles said. "We didn't get done what we were expected to get done, so if everybody in there is not very, very disappointed, then we've got big problems.''

While the Bucks could be motivated to take their final two games and avoid a seventh losing season in eight years, the 76ers are no longer under pressure to win.

"Now we can breathe a little easier," forward Elton Brand said. "We could have beaten Milwaukee at Milwaukee, but why when you don't have to.''

The 76ers will open the playoffs at Chicago or Miami. Philadelphia, tied with New York, would finish with the seventh seed if it wins Wednesday and Thursday at Detroit and the Knicks lose one of their final two games.

New York hosts the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday and visits Charlotte on Thursday.

If the 76ers lose once and the Knicks win one more game, Philadelphia will be locked in at No. 8 after losing the season series to New York.

The Sixers could be without Andre Iguodala on Wednesday after he strained an Achilles' tendon late in Monday's contest. The Bucks could also be missing a key player, as guard Monta Ellis injured his shooting hand against the Raptors and is uncertain to play.

Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings, who has scored 25 or more points in a career-best four consecutive games, had 33 to help the Bucks win 97-93 the last time the 76ers were in town March 5. Jennings, though, finished with seven points and was outplayed by Jrue Holiday, who scored 24, in a 94-82 loss in Philadelphia on Jan. 16.

The 76ers will go for their first four-game winning streak on the road since a five-game run March 1-14, 2008.

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