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Iguodala, Miller lead Sixers to postseason

Apr 5, 2008 - 3:49 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Andre Iguodala and Andre Miller helped punch the Philadelphia 76ers' ticket to the postseason on Friday.

Iguodala had 30 points and 10 assists and Miller added 23 points to lead the Sixers to a 109-104 victory over the Atlanta Hawks en route to their first playoff berth in three years in the Eastern Conference.

Willie Green and Samuel Dalembert poured in 15 points apiece for Philadelphia, which has won 21 of its last 28 games.

"I'm so proud of our players," Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "The last time we were in this building, we were 18-30. To be where we are now is an incredible accomplishment. Our first step was to get to the playoffs. Now, we have to turn that off and turn it back on track (Saturday) to get a better spot."

Joe Johnson poured in a game-high 32 points and Josh Childress added 20 for the Hawks (35-41), who are three games ahead of the Indiana Pacers (32-44) in race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Indiana defeated Milwaukee, 105-101, on Friday.

"They did a good job getting in the paint and making plays," Johnson said. "You got to put this behind you."

Philadelphia looked like a totally different ballclub than the last time it was in Atlanta, when the Sixers fell to the Hawks by six to fall 12 games under .500 on February 4.

Led by Iguodala and Miller, the 76ers (39-37) won three-quarters of their next 28 games over a two-month stretch to move two games over .500 and clinch a spot in the postseason for the first time since the 2004-2005 campaign.

"I don't know how it happened," Miller said of the turnaround. "It's been hard work. We played some hard teams and could have easily slipped to the side. We're just playing good basketball right now.

"It's one of the better (moments in my career). I had a few playoff runs in Denver and this was a little bit better. We stuck together. It's been a good effort by everybody."

Quite fittingly, the tandem of Iguodala and Miller came up huge down the stretch for Philadelphia on Friday, righting a club that had squandered a double-digit, first-half lead.

"Going into the fourth, I thought I was more passive than I should have been," Iguodala said. "So, I needed to step it up."

After Atlanta tied the contest at 88-88 on a layup by Childress, the duo combined to tally the Sixers' next 21 points to give Philadelphia the hard-earned win and a spot in the postseason dance.

"It was huge for us how Andre (Iguodala) took over," former Georgia high school star Louis Williams said. "He and Andre Miller, being our team captains, that's what we expect him to do."

But in order to get there, they had to overcome a sensational performance from Atlanta's lone All-Star Johnson, who tallied the Hawks' last 13 points down the stretch.

Miller scored six points and Iguodala added five in an 11-3 spurt to give the Sixers a 99-91 lead on Miller's 16-foot jumper with 2:50 remaining before Johnson cut deficit to three with two buckets and a free throw.

Iguodala and Johnson each tallied their club's next six points before the 24-year-old Iguodala drained four free throws to give the Sixers a 109-102 lead. Johnson drained a runner in the lane to cap the scoring.

"A lot of the things we do revolve around Iguodala," Cheeks said. "He's been focused on doing this night in and night out."

"He's been a playmaker all year for them," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "(Philadelphia is) enjoying his success as a player and, in turn, they're winning."

The Hawks, who rallied from a 17-point, third-quarter deficit for a controversial 127-120 overtime win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, once again found themselves behind by double digits in this one.

The Sixers built a 41-27 lead on former Georgia Tech standout Thaddeus Young's seven-foot jumper with 7:34 remaining. But Atlanta answered right back, scoring 19 of the last 29 points in the half to cut Philadelphia's lead to 51-46 at the break.

But the Hawks could not get over the hump in this one, falling for the first time in five games and missing an opportunity to notch their first six-game winning streak since the 1998-99 campaign - the last season that playoff-challenged Atlanta crashed the postseason party.

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