Saturday, February 13, 2016

Sixers look to clinch playoffs tonight at New Jersey

The SIxers had their most impressive performance in quite some time Saturday in win over Indiana. Can they maintain that level of play?

Sixers look to clinch playoffs tonight at New Jersey

The Sixers can clinch a playoff spot with a win against the Nets tonight. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
The Sixers can clinch a playoff spot with a win against the Nets tonight. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

There were so many positives that came out of the Sixers 109-106 overtime win in Indiana on Saturday, snapping the Pacers' 7-game winning streak: 

*The team made big shots down the stretch in overtime to win a close game. Before Saturday, the Sixers were 3-19 in games decided by 7 points or less. 

*Elton Brand was a force inside, fighting hard for each of his nine rebounds against maniacle Tyler Hansbrough and 7-3 Roy Hibbert. He also provided a huge offensive spark, scoring a team-high 20 points. 

*Andre Iguodala scored 16 points but was most impressive at the defensive end where he held Indiana's leading scorer, Danny Granger, to just four points on 2-of-12 shooting. 

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*Jrue Holiday played a solid floor game, scoring 17 points, dealing 7 assists, grabbing four rebounds and two steals and scoring the Sixers final four points of the game. 

*Lou Williams hit two huge three-pointers in the extra period, one leading to a four-point play. 

*Thaddeus Young was his typical all-out self, collecting 15 points and eight rebounds. 

*And Lavoy Allen, called on for just under nine minutes of play, gave the Sixers a physical presence in the middle that the team needed. He was plus-7 during his limited minutes. 

But more than that, more than the individual numbers and accomplishments, for the first time in a long while the "team" feeling was back. There were back slaps, encouraging words, guys jumping off the bench after a key play was made. 

It might not seem as if that should be such a big deal, being as this is the NBA and all. But that's what this team thrived on early in the season when it was winning 20 of 29 games. For at least Saturday night, the fun seemed to return to the team. The angst that losing 21 of the last 33 games brought vanished. 

Players played for the team, not for themselves. There was no selfish play, no moping (well, maybe except Evan Turner) about playing time, not frustration demonstrated towards each other. 

For this team to succeed, with the talent level that it has right now, being a cohesive unit is paramount. They have to win with numbers, not with individuals. There has to be a common goal, not 14 different ones. There can be no looking backing or ahead as the task at hand has to be their lone focus. 

That task right now, of course, is to secure a playoff spot, which they can do with a win in any of their final three games, the first of which is tonight in New Jersey. They can also clinch with a loss by Milwaukee in any of its final two games - tonight at home against Toronto or Wednesday when it hosts the Sixers. 

You just get the feeling that clinching with a win tonight, instead of having to await the outcome of the Milwaukee game, would be so much more beneficial for the Sixers. It would mean all that momentum gained on Saturday was gone. 

Sixshots: The Sixers are a half game behind the New York Knicks for the seventh spot in the East. The Knicks host the Clippers on Wednesday and finish out the season at Charlotte on Thursday. If the Sixers (33-30) and the Knicks (34-30) finish with the same record, the Knicks would get the seventh seed due to their 2-1 record against the Sixers this season...The Chicago Bulls are two games ahead of the Miami Heat for the top seed in the East and both have two games remaining. If Miami wins both and Chicago loses both, Miami would win the East due to a better conference record. A Chicago win or a loss by Miami (at Boston Tuesday, at Washington Thursday) would give the top seed to the Bulls.

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About this blog
Bob Cooney has been at the Daily News for more than 20 years, working in the sports department for the past 15. This is his third season on the Sixers beat. He has covered just about everything, but mostly college basketball, where he was the La Salle beat writer for six seasons. E-mail Bob at and follow him on Twitter.

Bob Cooney
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