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Sixers Grind Utah Down

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Contrary to their usual pattern, the Sixers used a consistent offensive attack throughout the game and a late defensive surge to put another double-digit victory on the board over the Utah Jazz tonight. (game capsule).

Here's your rotation chart. Note how they came out weak and slowly gained steam until they blew Utah off the court late in the third and throughout the fourth:

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Let's start by saying both Lou and Thad were spectacular off the bench tonight. Lou was super efficient, scoring 21 points on only 10 shots (and 10 trips to the line). Thad was back with his unbelievable energy off the bench and also put 21 in the points column. Those guys were great in their roles, as they have been for most of the year, but the story from this game (and the last game) is the play of the starting perimeter trio of Jrue, Turner and Iguodala.

With Doug Collins apparently committed to playing those three together, in a big way, how they mesh is going to define this season for the Sixers. Tonight, it was a thing of beauty. They seemingly took turns initiating - and scoring - throughout the night. You can almost break it down by quarter. In the first, Iguodala and Turner combined to score 13 points. In the second, Iguodala and Jrue combined to score 7, in the third it was Turner and Iguodala again to combine for 7, then in the fourth Jrue scored 11 on his own with Turner chipping in another four. All three didn't score in any quarter, they literally took turns as the focal point of the offense all night. Here's another KPI worth keeping track of. The trio had seven assists to each other. They were pushing the all on the break, they dominated the glass (22 rebounds between them, 21 of the team's 36 defensive rebounds) and most importantly, they completely locked down the defensive end of the floor, especially in the second half.

Collins broke out the "Closing Time" lineup to end the game, and they did so in impressive fashion. Collins assembled the lineup with 6:15 left in the game and the Sixers leading 91-81. Over the next 4:31 the Jazz wouldn't make a field goal and they'd only score 4 points (on free throws). At the 1:29 mark, the Sixers had pushed the lead to 15 and the game was over. Utah scored six points in their final four possessions once the game was clearly decided, so the 10 points allowed by that unit, while still impressive, was very misleading. Overall, they allowed 4 points on 7 possessions up to the 1:29 mark, 10 points on 11 possessions overall.

Another double-digit win. Their first back-to-back wins since the Cleveland/Charlotte games prior to the break. Their record since the break moves to 4-3. They retain their two-game edge over the Celts in the Atlantic, pull 5.5 games ahead of the Knicks, pass Atlanta (who lost to the Pistons) and pull within 1 game of the Pacers. The Sixers need to win the Atlantic and finish with a better record than two of the Pacers, Hawks and Magic to have home court in the first round of the playoffs.

Two games does not a career make, but you can't help but be encouraged not only by Turner's play over the past two games, but by the way Jrue and Iguodala have flourished with Turner shoehorned between them. Having three playmakers, on both ends of the floor, on the perimeter makes it extremely hard for defenses to take things away from the Sixers. Let's hope they can continue to mesh as well as they have in the past two.

Player of The Game: Evan Turner. The award really could've gone to any of five players tonight, but Turner gets the edge in my mind thanks to the 12 defensive boards he grabbed. You have to wonder if he'd be able to average 10/game if he keeps getting 35+ minutes/night. On a side note, Jodie Meeks played a total of 8 minutes tonight, none in the second half. I'd expect his role to continue to diminish until he starts hitting the wide open threes the other guys are setting him up with.
Team Record: 24-17
Up Next: @ NYK, Sunday afternoon
Jrue's Goal: Jrue actually got to the line tonight, which is a step in the right direction. But he only got there once, and he missed the and-one opportunity. Four turnovers is way too many. (2-11-2 since inception).