Philadelphia 76ers v New Jersey Nets
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The entire reason The Process began was because the Sixers organization wanted to move away from being a perennial low-seeded playoff team without a chance at a title in a star-studded league and move towards building a foundation of young stars that could compete for years. Fans sat through abysmal years with G-League players on the roster, but it looks like it's really starting to pay off big time now.

Let's rewind to the 2011-12 season, the last season Philadelphia was in the playoffs. Teams only played 66 games due to the lockout. The Sixers selected big men Nikola Vucevic and Lavoy Allen in the NBA Draft. They finished 35-31 after an impressive month of January (13-4), but went 16-25 the rest of the way, leaving doubt about how they'd fare in the playoffs. Doug Collins was the head coach.

Philadelphia clinched their last playoff spot in the East on April 23, 2012, against the New Jersey Nets at the Prudential Center. The Sixers came out strong in the first quarter, leading 31-18 after one and maintaining a 10-point lead at half. New Jersey outscored the Sixers by two in the third and even cut the lead to one, but Philly outscored them by 10 in the final 12 minutes to close out a 105-87 victory.

Three players led the Sixers with 15 points. Jrue Holiday suffered a broken nose in the win, but still tallied 15 points, four assists and four rebounds. Current 87ers general manager Elton Brand also had 15 to go along with six boards and four blocks. Forward Thaddeus Young came off the bench and contributed 15 points on 7-for-8 shooting. He scored 10 of his points in the third quarter after the Nets had cut the lead to one. The Sixers responded with a 13-6 run to end the third and never looked back. Andre Iguodala finished the game with 14 points, nine assists and seven rebounds while Evan Turner and Lou Williams provided a spark off the bench with 13 points and 11, respectively.

Here's what Doug Collins had to say following the win that sealed the East's final playoff spot:

"Adversity can send you south or make you forge together and be stronger. I think our guys have done that. Every team goes through it, especially in a season like this, where games are piled on with no practice, no rest days, five games in seven nights in five cities, three games in a row. I am so proud of my guys. I really, really am. They answered the bell and when I looked up there with one minute to go and I knew we were going to be in the playoffs, it was a very satisfying feeling."

If the Sixers would have lost against New Jersey, it would have set up a showdown game in Milwaukee. Thad Young was glad they avoided that scenario:

"We just wanted to get this over with, and finally clinch and not have our minds on other things. We wanted to start thinking about the playoffs and getting ourselves mentally prepared and ready physically. It would have been real ugly if we lost tonight."

Elton Brand's reacting to the clinch:

"It's a big sigh of relief. It's been a whirlwind season. Now we are in and looking to see who our opponent is. Now we can breathe a little easier. We could have beaten Milwaukee at Milwaukee, but why when you don't have to."

The Sixers went on to defeat the Chicago Bulls in six games before falling to the Celtics and their 'Big 3' in a hard-fought Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup. Prior to the next season, the Sixers dealt Andre Iguodala to the Nuggets in a four-team trade that started the frustrating chronicles of Andrew Bynum.

A 34-48 season in 2012-13 spelled the end of the Doug Collins, Tony DiLeo and Rod Thorn era and sparked the beginning of Sam Hinkie, Brett Brown and The Process in Philadelphia. The rest is history and playoff basketball is back in the City of Brotherly Love.

Brandon Apter is a contributor to 97.3 ESPN and managing editor at Follow him on Twitter @bapter23

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