Golf Clap: Sixers Clinch Playoffs, Winning Record With Win in New Jersey

Golf Clap: Sixers Clinch Playoffs, Winning Record With Win in New Jersey

Bust out the Canada Dry. The Philadelphia 76ers have clinched a playoff
spot—their fourth in the last five years, a feat matched in the East by
only Boston, Miami, Orlando and Atlanta—by defeating the Deron Williams-less New Jersey Nets
in the Nets' last-ever game in the Garden State. The win not only
ensures that the Sixers will be playing May basketball, but also
guarantees the Ballers their first season with a winning record since
2004-05. The Sixers now sit at 34-30, the same record as the New York
Knicks, though the Knicks have the tiebreaker due to winning the season
series.

The win was the kind of team-wide, bench-centric effort that the team
used to breeze through lesser squads earlier in the year. Thaddeus Young
and Evan Turner went a combined 13-16 from the field for 28 points,
while Andre Iguodala posted a trademark near-triple-double with 14
points, seven boards and nine assists. Even Lavoy Allen got into the
mix, playing in the stead of an ineffective Nik Vucevic (just 2:20 of
game time after starting at center), scoring nine points on 4-5 shooting
with four rebounds. Things got a little sticky in the third, but Thad,
Evan and Sour Patch Lou Williams helped the team separate going into the
fourth, and the Nets fans took one last chance to boo their team on
their home floor.

 
So...yay? Making the playoffs, that's a good thing, right? Depends on
who you ask, I suppose. Watching your team in the post-season is
supposed to be the reward for sticking with your team through the entire
regular-season grind, but obviously it's hard to get too enthused about
this Sixers team that had gone 6-13 before their recent three-game
winning streak, demolishing all of the excitement this team had started
the season with. It's probably still a preferable finish to last year,
when the team lost five of their last six (including a humiliating home
loss to the Detroit Pistons at season's end) to finish the year at .500
again, but it's not exactly the Phils clinching the NL East or anything.

Now, the Sixers have two games left, at Milwaukee and at Detroit, while
the Knicks play the Clippers at MSG and the Bobcats in Charlotte.
Optimally, both teams will win both remaining games, so the Sixers can
enter the playoffs feeling good about themselves while still slotting
into the eighth seed, allowing them to face the maybe-less-superhuman
Chicago Bulls instead of the Miami Heat in the first round. Regardless
of who they face, it's hard to believe that they can do better than the
ol' First Round Tough Out playoff warmup, though against the Bulls, at
least they'd have a (very, very distant) shot. Is that worth the
possible difference between (roughly) the 17th pick and the 12th pick in
next year's draft? You be the judge.

On an even-less-triumphant note, I'd like to issue a fond farewell to
the New Jersey Nets. Yes, the team sucked for a long time, yes, their
games against the Sixers were always unwatchable, but I still feel a
great deal of affection and sympathy for the beleaguered Nets. That
Prudential Center was a very underrated place to watch a basketball
game—my friends and I could basically get an entire section to ourselves
for about $2 each on StubHub. They'll be infinitely cooler in Brooklyn,
but likely a lot less lovable. Godspeed, New Jersey basketball.

Sixers draw high praise from Warriors after loss to NBA leader

Sixers draw high praise from Warriors after loss to NBA leader

BOX SCORE

The Warriors are the blueprint of a total team in the NBA. They have a star-studded starting lineup and a top sixth man with the positional versatility that creates hard-to-combat matchups.

Yet, as the Warriors notched their 50th win of the season, 119-108, in a collaborative effort against the Sixers, they gave credit to the potential they see in their opponent, even when Brett Brown didn't have his key pieces on the court Monday (see Instant Replay).

"They play hard," Stephen Curry said. "They have some talent to work around. Hopefully they have some consistency with their roster going forward and getting guys healthy. One thing about them, you've got to compliment their energy and effort and fight every night they play."

Facing the Warriors with a full squad is challenging enough. The Sixers did it shorthanded without Joel Embiid, who is out indefinitely with a left knee contusion (see story). They also are less than a week removed from trading starting power forward Ersan Ilyasova and the defensive-minded Nerlens Noel.

"You've got to give this team a lot of credit," Draymond Green said. "They're going to be really, really, really good. I mean, they're missing Embiid and Ben Simmons and they're really on their way."

With 10 available players, including Justin Anderson, who has had just one shootaround to actually get a run in with the team, the Sixers fought until the final buzzer sounded. Dario Saric led the Sixers with 21 points and seven assists, while also collecting seven rebounds. Gerald Henderson scored 16 and both Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes added 15 (see feature highlight). Covington also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.

"They play the right way," Klay Thompson said. "They made it tough on us tonight. I'm excited to see their team when Embiid and Simmons are healthy. It should be a scary frontcourt, and with Saric. They're heading in the right direction. They'll only get better this June because they have some high picks. It's a bright future in Philly."

The Sixers held the Warriors to 6 for 29 three-point shooting (20.7 percent), including an 0-for-11 outing by Curry. This was the third time this season and only the 37th time in his career Curry missed all of his three-point attempts.

"I think he had an off night," Brown said. "I think at times we got lucky with them as a team. They didn't shoot it the way the team normally would shoot it. Some of it is I give our guys credit."

Curry took his uncharacteristic performance, which included a pair of air-balls, in stride.

"The weatherman said it was a low-pressure system that was coming and I forgot to adjust," Curry said. "One thing, [I] don't ever get down on myself. Obviously that's why I got 11 of them up and not make one. You still have confidence the next one's going in."

Still, the Warriors turned to team basketball to pull away with the win. While they struggled from long range, they found other ways to run up the scoreboard, including shooting 33 for 39 at the free throw line.

Kevin Durant led all players with 27 points to go with eight rebounds. Green recorded a 14-point, 11-assist double-double and six boards. Thompson scored 21 points and Zaza Pachulia added 16. And at the end of the night, Curry still finished with 19 points in spite of his three-point woes.

"We've been doing this for a while together now and just try to find ways to get it done," Green said. "Obviously you've got to do a lot more on the defensive end to get stops, and try to create more offense. I think it was a good effort from everybody tonight to chip in."

Added Curry: "For us to still have the moxie to withstand that and still pretty much have the lead the whole game and allow our defense to get us a win tonight was kind of our M.O."

The Warriors are a perennial title contender thanks to their balanced roster and depth of weapons. The Sixers are in the beginning stages of working toward that goal. After Monday's game, the NBA's strongest example of "team" appreciated the direction in which Sixers are moving.

"Putting this franchise back together," Green said, "it's amazing to see."

Best of NHL: Ryan White scores in winning debut with Wild

Best of NHL: Ryan White scores in winning debut with Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Mikael Granlund beat two defenders to find open ice and wrap the winning shot around goalie Jonathan Quick just 12 seconds into overtime, giving the Minnesota Wild a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.

Granlund's 20th goal of the season gave goalie Devan Dubnyk his NHL-leading 33rd win and the Wild their 15th comeback victory. They answered all four goals in regulation by the Kings, from Nick Shore, Tanner Pearson, Jake Muzzin and Marian Gaborik.

Jason Zucker's spinning wrist shot midway through the third period tied the game for the Wild, who also had goals from Nino Niederreiter, Jordan Schroeder and Ryan White in his debut. White and Martin Hanzal were acquired in a trade with Arizona the night before (see full recap).

Kucherov's hat trick carries Lightning past Sens
TAMPA, Fla. -- Nikita Kucherov scored three power-play goals in the second period and the Tampa Bay Lightning kept their fading playoff hopes alive with a 5-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.

Kucherov had the second hat trick of his career and added an assist in the third period. Jonathan Drouin assisted all three of his goals and Victor Hedman assisted on two.

A day after trading goaltender Ben Bishop to Los Angeles and just hours after trading forward Brian Boyle to Toronto, the Lightning improved to 6-1-2 over their past nine games.

The Senators, who won at Florida on Sunday night, are 6-6 over their past 12 games (see full recap).

Galchenyuk lifts Canadiens over Devils in OT
NEWARK, N.J. -- Alex Galchenyuk scored on a power play at 2:54 of overtime and the Montreal Canadiens rallied from a two-goal third-period deficit to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 on Monday night.

Max Pacioretty scored twice in the final 11:23 of regulation to tie the game and Alexander Radulov added a goal for the Canadiens, who won consecutive games for the first time since early January. Al Montoya had 34 saves for Montreal.

Kyle Palmieri, John Moore and Travis Zajac scored for the Devils, who have lost four straight games (0-2-2), the past two in overtime. Cory Schneider made 29 saves.

Galchenyuk beat Schneider with a shot from between the circles less than a minute after Damon Severson was penalized for hooking (see full recap).