Nets-76ers Preview

It appeared the Philadelphia 76ers were heading toward another

awful season the last time the New Jersey Nets were in town. About

four months later, the 76ers can beat them to wrap up a postseason

berth.

Philadelphia could punch its playoff ticket in front of the home

crowd Friday night if it posts an eighth straight victory over the

Nets.

After finishing 27-55 last season under coach Eddie Jordan –

their worst record since 1996-97 – the 76ers dropped 13 of 16 to

begin the Doug Collins era and were at the bottom of the Eastern

Conference. Philadelphia, though, owns the East’s fourth-best

record since that ugly start, a turnaround which began with a

102-86 home win over the Nets on Nov. 27.

“One step closer, 39 wins now, which is fabulous,” Collins said

following Wednesday’s 108-97 victory over Houston.

The 76ers (39-36), sixth in the East and two games ahead of

seventh-place New York, would like to reward their fans with the

clinching victory Friday before playing two straight on the road

beginning Saturday versus Milwaukee.

“We can clinch at home now, so we don’t have to have other teams

lose,” said forward Elton Brand, whose only playoff appearance in

12 seasons came in 2006 with the Los Angeles Clippers.

If ninth-place Charlotte loses at Orlando on Friday,

Philadelphia would earn a playoff spot regardless of how its game

against the Nets goes.

New Jersey (23-51), loser of eight of nine following a

season-high five-game winning streak, has no such playoff hopes but

will use its final eight games as a bridge to next season.

“It’s frustrating,” Deron Williams told the Nets’ official

website following Wednesday’s 120-116 loss at New York. “But we had

some good things come out of it. It’s all just a process for us.

Everybody is being evaluated right now. Moving forward these are

just good games to be a part of.”

Williams had 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in his

return Wednesday after missing six games with a strained tendon in

his right wrist. He’s averaging 15.6 points and 12.6 assists since

being acquired from Utah on Feb. 23.

The two-time All-Star will likely be matched up with second-year

point guard Jrue Holiday, averaging team highs of 16.7 points and

9.7 assists in three victories against New Jersey this season.

Holiday posted his first career triple-double with 11 points, 11

assists and 10 boards in a 106-92 win at New Jersey on Feb. 2.

He’s averaged 21.3 points and 8.3 assists over the last three

games for the 76ers, who have eight players averaging between 7.0

and 14.7 points. Philadelphia’s bench is scoring a league-best 39.7

per game.

“We have a lot of guys who can come off the bench and score at

will,” forward Thaddeus Young said. “We don’t need guys to come in

and score 20.”

The 76ers are trying to sweep New Jersey for the second

consecutive season after losing all four matchups in 2008-09.

The Nets have lost four straight overall, yielding 106.3 points

per game.