Jazz inch closer to playoffs
SALT LAKE CITY (AP)
The Utah Jazz's losing streak is over, and their playoff hopes are very much alive.
The Jazz jumped out to a big early lead and didn't let up, blowing out the Philadelphia 76ers 107-91 on Monday night to halt a four-game skid.
''We talked about it before the game, talked about it at halftime as well,'' said Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward, who had 15 points thanks to 3-of-3 shooting beyond the arc. ''Don't give them any breathing room, no reason to hope.''
Instead, the Jazz (35-36) still harbor their own hopes. Their win, coupled with a Lakers loss at Golden State, moved Utah within a game of the eighth-place Lakers (36-35) in the Western Conference.
''We can definitely do it,'' Hayward said. ''We've beaten some of the best teams in the league. I know we can do it. It's just a matter of us going out there, playing as a team, helping each other defensively and making a lot of plays.''
Hayward got the Jazz rolling with a pair of 3-pointers that helped stake Utah to a 10-0 lead. Randy Foye added three more 3s in the half as Utah made 6 of 10 from beyond the arc before the break en route to a 58-42 lead.
''That opens it up from the perimeter so they have to respect you a little bit more,'' said Hayward, only recently reinserted into the starting lineup to give Utah more playmakers. ''They can't double-team our big guys down low.''
Overall, it led to a balanced effort offensively as seven Jazz players scored in double figures.
The 16-point loss, meanwhile, was a disappointing end to a four-game western road trip for the Sixers, who on Sunday had ended a 15-game road losing streak with a victory in Sacramento.
''We got it handed to us tonight,'' Spencer Hawes said. ''Not much else to say. I think the start was indicative of the level of intensity they played with versus how we did.''
After falling behind so far early, Philadelphia fought back within 27-23 at the end of the first quarter on a hook shot by Hawes.
Utah opened the second quarter on a 15-6 run to bump its lead to 42-29 with 7:21 left in the half. Philadelphia was within five with 3:19 remaining in the half after a layup by Lavoy Allen before Utah's 13-0 run. The Jazz surge included 3-pointers from Foye and Mo Williams and a diving play out of bounds by Williams, who was on his back when he pushed the ball ahead to Hayward at midcourt for an easy dunk.
Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said six straight turnovers in that span were costly.
''We gave them 24 points off turnovers,'' lamented Collins, who also was bugged by the fact Philadelphia had just nine assists one night after finishing with 31 in the win over the Kings.
Foye led Utah with 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting, while Derrick Favors added 13 points and 10 rebounds off the bench for the Jazz.
''It's good to end the (losing) streak, good to get a win at home,'' Hayward said. ''But it's just one of many we are looking to get here in the near future. We can't really celebrate this one too much.''
The Jazz (35-36) had dropped 12 of their previous 15 overall to fall behind the Lakers. Utah plays seven of its final 11 games at home, where the Jazz are 25-9.
Foye said the Jazz gained confidence last week in San Antonio, even though they eventually lost in overtime.
''That was the best game we played defensively,'' Foye said. ''We were in guys, not giving an ounce back. We said you have to run through us. We gave them a fight. We lost the game, but we felt good about it.''
He said the defensive effort in that game re-appeared in Monday's first half, where Utah held the Sixers to 38 percent shooting, turned eight Philadelphia turnovers into 16 points and held a 14-3 edge on the fast-break points.
Also credit seven Jazz blocks for the big early lead, and Hayward's hot hand.
''I think it's big for us,'' Foye said of having Hayward start. ''I've been out there the whole year, not by myself, but Mo (Williams) has (been hurt) and G has been playing with the second unit. With those guys out there, everyone's a threat and it's pick your poison for opponents.''
Dorell Wright scored 19 to lead the Sixers (27-43). Arnett Moultrie added 14 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
''Our attitude is no matter who we face, we've just got to take the fight to them, not wait for them to swing the first punch,'' Foye said. ''We usually wait for somebody to hit us with the hook before we fight back. We set the tone from the beginning.''
NOTES: The Sixers had just three assists in the first half and scored just 19 points in the second quarter. ... Collins only half-jokingly before the game said the future of the NBA is headed toward 30 percent of possessions being 3-point shots. ''The game has changed. ... Teams are too good defensively. ... It almost has to be where your 4-man has to be able to shoot the corner 3,'' he said. The Jazz are on pace to shatter the franchise mark for made 3-pointers in a season ... Monday marked the 40th anniversary of the Sixers' 9-73 season in which Roy Rubin (4-47) and Kevin Loughery (5-26) split the coaching chores.