By Jose Roberto Meza PhilBoxing.com Tue, 24 Apr 2012
THE race for the 8th and final playoffs berth in the NBA's Eastern Conference was officially settled Monday night. The Philadelphia 76ers are in. The Milwaukee Bucks are out.
Philadelphia sealed the deal with a 105-87 dismantling of the New Jersey Nets at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The win enabled the Sixers to clinch the magic number of 34 wins which the 31-33 Bucks can't surpass despite their 92-86 triumph over the Toronto Raptors also Monday night.
A likely No.8 seed, the Sixers are poised to meet the Chicago Bulls in the opening round of the playoffs beginning on April 28. The Bulls need only one more win or a Miami Heat loss to lock up the No.1 seed in the East.
The Sixers made 43-of-80 field goals (53.8 percent) and had six players score in double figures. The Nets, who played their final game in New Jersey before moving to Brooklyn, New York next season, put up a valiant fight but they trailed from the get-go ---- 31-18 after one quarter -- and couldn't keep up with the Sixers who dropped 29 points in the fourth quarter.
Elton Brand spearheaded the Sixers' onslaught with 15 points and six rebounds. Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday also poured in 15 apiece while Andre Igoudala flirted with a triple double with 14 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. Evan Turner and Louis Williams added 24 points between them.
"It's just been a real team effort, everybody chipping in, doing their thing," Sixers head coac Doug Collins said of his team's performance which netted the franchise their second postseason slot in two years. "We've just had so many guys play well tonight. The thing I was happy about was the Nets cut it to one and we regained our composure and did a great job. This is a very tough team to play, "Collins added.
Rookie MarShon Brooks led the Nets with 18 points while Kris Humphries finished with 16 and 12 rebounds. But New Jersey simply "ran out of gas in the fourth quarter," conceded Nets head coach Avery Johnson, who steered the Dallas Mavericks to a failed bid in the 2006 NBA Finals. (Jose Roberto Meza)