Sixers play physical, hit jumpers to beat Jazz
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There isn’t much that good shooting can’t cure. A team could have a blown defensive assignment, fumble a ball out of bounds or fail to block out on a rebound—all major faux pas that can cost teams a game.
But if it can consistently put the ball in the basket, it can cover up nearly everything.
The Sixers have learned this the hard way this season, checking into Friday night’s game against the Utah Jazz at the Wells Fargo Center ranked 29th in field goal percentage and coming off a loss to the previously winless Pistons after shooting a building worst, 29.8 percent.
But on Friday night the Sixers shot 46 percent, including a season-best 10 for 18 from three-point range in a 99-93 victory over the Jazz (see Instant Replay)
. It came hours after injured center Andrew Bynum, recovering from a bone bruise in his right knee, revealed that he had suffered a setback
in his other knee.
Indeed, the Sixers rebounded well and held their own in the paint against the more physical Jazz, something they did not do against Detroit. However, one has to wonder how much extra confidence the Sixers had because they were making some shots for a change.
“Shooting can be a great bromide and it can be a great downer,” coach Doug Collins said. “Very seldom do you ever see teams play through bad shooting for long stretches of time.”
For the Sixers, Jrue Holiday and Jason Richardson carried the scoring load through the early going, with the point guard scoring 10 of the Sixers' first 22 points. Meanwhile, Richardson buried three three-pointers in the first half on his way to a 5-for-7 showing from long range.
Holiday led all scorers with 26 points to go with a game-high seven assists, while Richardson notched 20 points with a team-leading eight rebounds.
More importantly, the ball was falling through the basket for a change and that set the tone for the entire game.
“Shooting is such a big part in what we do—it’s so important to us,” Collins said. “We have shooters and if that ball isn’t going in the basket it can work in a negative way.”
The Sixers surprisingly matched the Jazz -- a team known for its low-post prowess and physical play -- in the paint and on the boards. In the fourth quarter the Sixers were 9 for 14 in the paint and 10 for 19 in the final 10:02 to close out the game. It was significant for the Sixers, who were outscored by 32 combined points in the paint over their previous two games.
“During one timeout I told them, ‘We’re going to win the game, guys, if we win in two areas. One is points in the paint and the other is rebounding,’” Collins said. “At the 10-minute mark when the game was tied I think they were up four in the paint and three on the boards. We ended up beating them by three on the boards and four in the paint.”
So with the battle in the paint being fought to an advantage for the Sixers, all they had to do was make some shots.
For a change, the Sixers came through.
“We’re a good shooting team, we just haven’t been shooting the ball well lately,” Richardson said. “I think it gave us a lot of energy and we really wanted to get off this streak. We didn’t want to lose at home.”
The Sixers closed one out and had six players notch double-figures in scoring. Interestingly, the Sixers’ fast finish was created by their fast start.
“We wanted to hit them first,” said Thad Young, who scored six of his 14 points in the fourth quarter. “They’re a big, physical team and they can run you out of your plays. So by scoring, we established our presence first and made ourselves felt. If we do that early more often, we’re going to win a lot more games.”
The homestand continues on Sunday night when the Cleveland Cavaliers come to town.Finger rolls
The Sixers went 9 for 10 from the foul line, but had attempted just two foul shots through the first 47 minutes of the game. ... Holiday has topped the 20-point plateau in four games this season, including three of the last five. He topped 20 points in 10 of 65 games last season. ... Utah’s DeMarre Carroll shot 6 for 6 from the field and 4 for 4 from the line for a career-high 17 points. ... In his last three games Richardson is 11 for 21 from three-point land.E-mail John Finger at email@example.com