Sixers' Holiday drops 33 on Suns

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jrue Holiday looks to deliver another assist in traffic with Suns defenders Luis Scola (left), Michael Beasley and Sebastian Telfair (right) in the second quarter.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jrue Holiday looks to deliver another assist in traffic with Suns defenders Luis Scola (left), Michael Beasley and Sebastian Telfair (right) in the second quarter.
Posted: November 27, 2012

IN ORDER to be placed on that hard-to-attain level of NBA stardom, a player needs to not only make big plays at important times during games, but must do so on a somewhat regular basis.

A look at Jrue Holiday's line from Sunday's game against the Phoenix Suns - a career-high 33 points, 13 assists and just two turnovers - goes a long way to suggesting he is starting to enter the upper echelon of NBA point guards. His averages of 18.6 points and 9.2 assists a game are further proof.

But the biggest contribution Holiday made in the Sixers' 104-101 win was a play that becomes the norm for the game's best players.

With 3 minutes, 47 seconds remaining and the Sixers clinging to a 95-91 lead, Holiday went high in the air under his basket to corral a missed three-pointer by Jason Richardson. He quickly pivoted to his left and deposited a layup while getting fouled by Jared Dudley. His ensuing free throw gave the Sixers a little breathing room that was needed down the stretch.

The rebound may have come out of frustration, as on the previous four possessions Holiday had missed a foul shot and three field-goal attempts. Some could argue Holiday was just in the right spot at the right time. Most likely, it appears, the fourth-year guard was doing what his team needs him to do night in and night out: play at a star level.

"My confidence level has always been up there with Jrue," said teammate Thaddeus Young, who scored 10 points. "Handling the ball and doing things with the basketball, Jrue is a good player and we have to play through him at certain points of the game in order to get buckets."

Actually, it is most points of the game when the team needs him to manufacture buckets. That became so evident when coach Doug Collins, trying to get Holiday some rest after playing 37 tough minutes in Saturday's overtime loss to Oklahoma City, sat him at the beginning of the fourth quarter. As quickly as Holiday could pull the long-sleeved T-shirt over his jersey on the bench, Phoenix had wiped away a five-point deficit. Back came Holiday.

"I could only rest him [almost 2 minutes] and I had to get him right back in the game," said Collins, whose team improved to 8-6. "I had to bring him back and so he ended up playing 39 minutes. I thought he had one spectacular play - the offensive rebound. He'd come down the floor the play before and shot a long jump shot, and I said that we were in the penalty and we had to take advantage of that. He got that great offensive rebound, that three-point play, and that pushed us back to seven [98-91]."

Easy wins probably won't come in bunches for the Sixers any time soon, so grinding them out has become the norm. Sunday was no different as the Suns cut the lead to one three times in the final 2 minutes, only to be answered by the Sixers each time - once on a Jason Richardson jump shot, another on a Holiday pullup and the last time on a Holiday free throw.

"It was my turn," Holiday said after scoring just six points Saturday against the Thunder. "I had to come out and be aggressive. I like having the feel of the game or the pressure of the game in my hands, especially games that come down to crunch time. I think I make the right plays and we usually connect like we did tonight."

And what of that offensive rebound?

"You know, I just kind of went for it," he said. "I know there's times you see guys like Russ [Russell Westbrook] or [Rajon] Rondo getting offensive rebounds at big moments, so I kind of felt like that was an opportunity that we needed to get that rebound and a bucket. And they fouled me, too."

Evan Turner, who had a season-high 26 on Saturday, scored 16 and had nine rebounds against the Suns (6-8), while Lavoy Allen totaled 11 points and six rebounds.

"That was a struggle, to say the least," Collins said. "Phoenix is a team that can really score the ball. Thank God Jrue was on today, he was fantastic. He had big plays and he was fantastic. But this was one of those games where I looked at our coaches and said, 'We better keep scoring because we're not stopping them.' "

Holiday saw to it.

Sixshots

The Sixers have a day off from practice before taking on the Dallas Mavericks at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday . . . The Sixers shot 48.1 percent from the floor, improving to 5-1 when they shoot better than 45 percent . . . Evan Turner hit three three-pointers, which is a career high . . . The Sixers are averaging just 9.4 turnovers in their past seven games after averaging 15.4 in their first seven.

" @BobCooney76

Blog: philly.com/Sixerville

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