PHILADELPHIA Another one down, another one in awe.
So it went Wednesday night for the Jazz in Philadelphia, where Utah beat the 76ers 110-102 and left yet another Eastern Conference opponent admiring just how simple Jerry Sloan's team can make the game when it decides to play his way.
"We weren't ready to handle the backscreens and all the cuts," said Sixers star Allen Iverson, whose 46-point performance was overshadowed by the teamwork 19-17 Utah displayed as it closed a four-game road trip with its third straight victory and won for the eighth time in its last nine outings.
"They are a well-coached team, and it shows," added Iverson, who came into the game averaging an NBA second-best 33.3 points. "They execute their plays to the fullest, and get the best shot possible."
In this instance, the stats and facts back up Iverson's assertion.
The Northwest Division-leading Jazz's 110 points were a season high, topping the 108 they had while beating the 76ers, now 17-18, by six back on New Year's Eve.
Season scoring leader Mehmet Okur not only scored a team-high 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field, but also dished a career-high eight assists. Andrei Kirilenko's 23 points came on an efficient 7-of-11, and Gordan Giricek added 16 with the same field shooting. Moreover, behind 17 points from Milt Palacio and 14 from Matt Harpring, Utah's bench outscored Philadelphia's 44-6.
They did it all with 29 assists, just one shy of their season high.
But the biggie is this:
The Jazz shot a whopping 74.1 percent from the field in the second half, matching their best half since they made 20-of-27 in the first two quarters of a win over Chicago in their Feb. 5, 1999, opener to the lockout-shortened '98-99 season.
That includes decidedly impressive 76.9 percent shooting 10-of-13 during a decisive fourth quarter in which Utah outscored Philadelphia 35-28.
In all, Utah finished a season-high 58.8 percent on 40-of-68 field shooting a Philadelphia opponent season-high for the season.
"That's not the best defense you can play let's put it that way," Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said afterward.
"We know how Utah plays," Cheeks added, echoing thoughts from Washington coach Eddie Jordan just a couple nights earlier. "They play cut and screen move. That's what they do. That's how they score."
Yet the 76ers couldn't do a dang thing about it over the final 12 minutes.
Utah went into the fourth quarter up one at 76-75, but after Okur fed Giricek following a nifty cut down the lane and Palacio hit a couple free throws with seven minutes and seconds to go the Jazz were up 10 at 91-81.
Philadelphia did get to within four at 102-98 after Kyle Korver knocked down a trey with 1:27 remaining his first 3-pointer of the game, and 27th straight game with at least one made from behind the long-distance line but the Jazz sealed their win with 8-of-8 shooting from the free-throw line, including four from Palacio and two apiece from Kirilenko and Okur.
Kirilenko added two of his four blocks in the quarter, including a critical one on Andre Iguodala with the score still 102-98 before Utah's late-game run of free throws.
"We just stuck to our offense," Harpring said. "We ran our plays down the stretch, and were able to get good shots. If we weren't able to get a good shot, we got fouled. We played pretty good defense down the stretch, too."
Palacio, who had a game-saving defensive stop on Iverson the first time Philadelphia and Utah played this season, had a third straight strong finish.
This time he scored 11 of his 17 points in the final quarter, and with a bit of help from the Jazz's occasional use of zone defense helped hold Iverson to 10 on 4-of-6 shooting in the fourth.
"I kept saying to the guys, 'Take our time,' " Palacio said. "I mean, we're going to get whatever we want because they're not the best defensive team out there, and we know that."
"We played as a team," Kirilenko added, "and we just executed on offense."
The Jazz have been doing that quite well lately.Comment on this story
After opening the trip with a loss last Friday at Memphis, they bounced back one night later by beating NBA-leading Detroit for the second time this season and followed that with Monday's win at Washington.
The victory over the Wizards inspired a front-page sports section headline in Tuesday's Washington Post trumpeting the Jazz's successful use of "Basketball Basics," alliteration that sounds like sweet music in Sloan's mind.
Wednesday's tune was oh-so-similar.
"They stayed with our offense," the Jazz coach said of his own, "and they didn't get out of it but a couple of times."We got in a little bit of a hurry to try to make great plays a couple times," Sloan added, "but most of the time we just passed the ball and did a good job of executing and taking the shot."