Playoff positioning and seeding implications ran rampant in the NBA on Friday but the lasting impact came from the Philadelphia 76ers clinching a playoff berth in their first year under head coach Doug Collins.
After a one-year hiatus, the 76ers will be back in the postseason, though they haven’t won a playoff series since 2003.
How distant does 2003 feel? Well, that year’s 76ers team featured Larry Brown in his last season as head coach of the team, Allen Iverson scoring 27.6 PPG and Keith Van Horn as the team’s second-leading scorer.
Suffice to say, a lot has changed – Brown is no longer an NBA head coach, Iverson took his game to Turkey and Van Horn hasn’t played in the NBA for five seasons.
And it’s been even longer of a playoff drought for Collins, who was a television analyst at this time last year. Collins took the Bulls to the playoffs in the 1980s and the Pistons in the mid-1990s. But he hadn’t been to the playoffs since 1997, when now-Pistons G.M. Joe Dumars was Collins’ top three-point shooter for the Pistons.
Collins has led the 76ers to the second-best record in the East since the All-Star Break (13-7) this season and the second-largest increase in win percentage since last season (+.197). Only the East-leading Bulls have outdone the 76ers in both categories.
Elsewhere in the NBA…
• A day after they made recent history by losing five straight games for the first time in the Tim Duncan era, the San Antonio Spurs took another step in the wrong direction. Their 119-114 loss to the Rockets in overtime made it six straight losses. This for a team that had not lost more than twice in a row all season. Before this losing streak, the Spurs were 12-1 in games following a loss this season. Now they are 0-5 in their last five such games.
• Looking for a reason why the Boston Celtics blew a halftime lead to the Hawks? As the game wore on, they stopped getting shots close to the hoop. Of the Celtics first 36 shots in the game, more than half (52.8 percent) were within 10 feet of the hoop. In the second half, that number plummeted to just 29 percent of their shots. Coincidentally or not, they were outscored by 13 points in the second half and lost 88-83.
Crawford• And finally, the triple-double fraternity in the Wizards locker room is getting bigger and bigger. John Wall recorded one earlier this season and JaVale McGee had one (of the points-rebounds-blocks variety) just a few weeks ago. On Friday, rookie Jordan Crawford turned the trick with 21 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that Crawford helped the Wizards make history. They’re the first NBA team to have two rookies post triple-doubles in the same season. It’s also the first time in franchise history that the Wizards have had three different players record triple-doubles in the same season.