With Sixers Loss, Nets Clinch Playoff Appearance
LOS ANGELES—In sports, the athletes and players always talk about "controlling the controllables" and leaving the rest of what happens to the fates. The Nets, who have reached the 40-victory plateau for the 15th time in franchise history (controllable), clinched a playoff spot for the first time in six seasons when the 76ers lost to the Nuggets tonight in Denver (fate).
General Manager Billy King's offseason vision has been realized, with Deron Williams now playing at an All-NBA level, Joe Johnson having connected on four game-winning shots, Brook Lopez leading NBA centers in scoring and Gerald Wallace defending the opponent's best players every night. Reggie Evans has pulled down 20-rebounds an NBA-best six times this season, and a deep bench has provided scoring punch (Andray Blatche, MarShon Brooks, Mirza Teletovic), a steady hand (C.J. Watson), "D and 3" (Keith Bogans) and veteran leadership (Jerry Stackhouse).
The 17th playoff appearance in franchise history will be the team's first since 2006-07. That season, Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson led the then-New Jersey Nets to the Eastern Conference Seminfinals before falling to LeBron James and the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers. The team has never gone more than five seasons without making the playoffs.
The Nets' roster wields significant playoff experience: Jerry Stackhouse has made eight previous trips; Joe Johnson, seven; Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace, five; Deron Williams, four; Keith Bogans, three; Andray Blatche, Kris Humphries and C.J. Watson, two. Johnson's streak of playoff appearances has been extended to six.
Five Nets will make their postseason debuts, including center Brook Lopez (whom the Nets drafted in 2008), MarShon Brooks (2011), Tornike Shengelia (2012) and Tyshawn Taylor (2012), as well as free-agent rookie forward Mirza Teletovic, who joined the team after playing abroad for Caja Laboral.
The Nets, on pace for 48 victories, are threatening the franchise mark for road victories. After winning 18 of their first 32 games, the Nets need to post just three more W's in their final nine games to top the team record of 20. The Nets have never finished an NBA season with a .500-or-better road record.