Sixers rally from 21 down in Utah, but lose in overtime

Jazz guard Devin Harris collides with Sixers' Jodie Meeks.
Jazz guard Devin Harris collides with Sixers' Jodie Meeks.
Posted: March 15, 2011

SALT LAKE CITY - Sometimes good teams play ugly games but still find a way to win.

The 76ers have proved to be a pretty good team lately, and they certainly played an ugly game most of the way against the Utah Jazz last night at Energy Solutions Arena.

Problem was, despite some fourth-quarter heroics by Andre Iguodala, they couldn't overcome their early deficiencies and dropped a 112-107 overtime decision to the Jazz.

After the game, it was revealed that Iguodala is day-to-day with right knee chondromalacia.

"Our guys put forth such great effort in the second half to get back in that game,'' coach Doug Collins said about his team's slow start.

They gave up 60 points in the first half and fell behind by as many as 21.

"If there's anything we learned, it's that if we're not blue-collar tough and give great effort all the time we can't beat anybody,'' Collins said. "You're not going to come in here and spot Utah 21 points in a game that they're desperately trying to win to make the playoffs.''

Utah was playing with a squad decimated by injuries. Starting forward Paul Millsap and swingman Gordon Hayward both were out, and starting point guard Devin Harris left early with a bad hamstring. The Jazz also was coming off a four-game road trip in which it lost three, falling behind by at least 30 in each of them. There were questions about the team's desire to win lately, particularly since longtime coach Jerry Sloan resigned on Feb. 10. Since Sloan stepped down and was replaced by Tyrone Corbin, the Jazz had won just three of 10 games, traded its star in Deron Williams, and fell out of the final playoff spot.

It was a wounded and desperate team going into the game against the Sixers, and sometimes that makes for a very dangerous situation. It did.

The Sixers trailed, 84-69, early in the fourth, but chipped away throughout the last half of the quarter. Rookie Derrick Favors made a layup with 2 minutes, 31 seconds remaining to give the Jazz a 99-91 lead. After a runner by Lou Williams, Iguodala made a pull-up jumper from 18 feet, a three-pointer from straight-on and converted a steal into a slam dunk for a 100-99 lead, the first of the game for the Sixers, with 1:03 remaining.

When Williams made two free throws with 19 seconds left, the Sixers were up, 102-99. In the span of 10 minutes, the Sixers outscored Utah, 33-15. Elton Brand (eight), Williams (11) and Iguodala (14) scored all 33 of the Sixers' points.

After Utah scored, Jodie Meeks made one of two foul shots with 11.7 seconds remaining for a 103-101 lead, but Utah's C.J. Miles made a layup, curling off a screen after a timeout to tie the game, 103-103. The Sixers ran an isolation play for Iguodala, who had a good look for an 18-footer near the buzzer, but back-rimmed it.

A three-pointer and follow dunk by Andrei Kirilenko were the big baskets in the extra period for the Jazz, as they improved to 35-33.

"That was a tough start for us tonight,'' said Brand, who looked like an ice-cream truck with all the ice planted on his body after the game. "We got behind and tried to dig ourselves out of a hole and we did a good job of doing that but we couldn't finish it. We had a lot of opportunities, but just couldn't finish it.''

Despite the slow start, the Sixers (34-33) still only found themselves down 28-23 after the first quarter. But the continuity that had been a staple lately wasn't there and while the Jazz eased to its 28 first-quarter points, the Sixers struggled mightily to get theirs.

Utah made 12 of 18 shots in the second quarter, grew the lead to 21, and pretty much licked and healed a lot of the wounds it had incurred recently.

After Saturday's 102-74 loss at Milwaukee, Collins, president Rod Thorn and many of the players talked of that game being "just one of those things'' and vowed they would get over it. A replay certainly wasn't in the game plan, but it certainly looked familiar for much of the night.

"We had a hangover from that Milwaukee game, we had a terrible first half,'' Collins said. "They went anywhere they wanted to with the ball, picked us apart. I told our guys if you don't play hard I'm going to find somebody that will. All we did in the second half was just compete.''

The Sixers were led by Iguodala's 23 points, while Williams came off the bench to score 22. Brand added 19, Meeks went for 17 and Thaddeus Young added 10.

It was the first time the Sixers have lost consecutive games since falling to Charlotte and Orlando on Jan. 19 and 20 and they'll have to try to right themselves somewhere during the next 5 days as their road trip will continue with games at the Clippers, Sacramento and Portland.

The feel for most of last night's game was more of the one the team had during their dismal 3-13 start, not the one they've established since then.

There appears to be many factors playing into what is currently ailing the team. The schedule has obviously been difficult recently, as last night was the seventh game in 11 nights.

Brand seems to be bothered by injuries to both hands. He has dislocated his right pinkie twice and now is sporting a swollen left hand, which he banged against Oklahoma City last week. Brand started last night with a splint on the pinkie and padding on the back of his left hand, but shed them in frustration early in the first half.

The biggest dilemma, however, appears to be a lack of defense. When teams are making shots, it severely slows down the Sixers, who are at their best when they are out and running. In Saturday's loss, the Sixers allowed Milwaukee to shoot 52.6 percent (40-for-76) and in the first half last night, Utah made 22 of 40 (55 percent).

Despite all that, the Sixers showed the resiliency that has become one of their most endearing trademarks, making the huge comeback and seemingly overcoming the poor play that had been plaguing them.

"We feel good about the way we fought back,'' Brand said. "We had a chance to lay two eggs in a row, but we feel good about that [comeback].''

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