In one of the 76ers' most impressive wins of the season, Monday in Chicago, coach Doug Collins had one of his worst moments.

It didn't last long, but Collins was terrified when he saw forward Thaddeus Young writhing in pain after he dove for a loose ball.

"I was sick to my stomach," Collins said.

And then he really started feeling bad.

"It gave me visions of when I blew out my [anterior] cruciate ligament," Collins said.

His worst fears were not realized. Young was injured, but it was nowhere near as bad as it looked.

Young strained his groin, an injury that has sidelined many an athlete. The Sixers forward returned before the end of Monday's 97-85 win over the Bulls, finishing with 21 points and seven rebounds.

Instead of being hampered by the injury, Young increased his output Wednesday in a 108-97 win over the visiting Houston Rockets. He finished with 22 points and nine rebounds.

"If he was injured, you could have fooled me," said Rockets guard Kyle Lowry, the former Cardinal Dougherty and Villanova standout, who finished with 19 points. "He was on fire and was spectacular."

The magic number for the Sixers (39-36) to clinch a playoff spot is one. One of the biggest differences between last season's 27-55 team and this one has been the development of Young.

He is averaging 12.5 points and 5.4 rebounds while making a team-best 54 percent of his shots from the field.

"Last year I was getting away from my game, and this year I am getting it back, listening to Coach Collins and the rest of coaches, and being aggressive and letting the game come to me," Young said.

After his spill on Monday, there was a chance that Young would not play against Houston. The Sixers were off from practice on Tuesday, but Young said he underwent two to three hours of medical treatment. He received more during Wednesday's shootaround and before the game.

"My hat goes off to our training staff who worked so hard to make sure I'd be fine," Young said.

It takes quite a bit to keep Young down. He and Jrue Holiday are the two Sixers who have appeared in every game this season.

"I feel great and am playing with a lot more confidence," Young said.

Collins has done a lot to help that confidence, but the fourth-year forward has done just as much to warrant the faith of his coach. Even with a strained groin, his quickness and improved perimeter game make Young a real matchup problem.

"Their guard penetration put us in a position where we wanted to help, and Young does a great job moving without the ball," Houston center Chuck Hayes said. "And him being a lefty, he has great touch."

When the Sixers officially clinch a playoff spot, it will mark the third time in the 22-year-old Young's four seasons that he will be involved in the postseason.

"It feels good and shows we came a long way and changed our culture," Young said. "We're back to our winning ways."

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or