Philadelphia • How do you beat the Jazz?
Pack the paint, make Utah beat you from the perimeter, and live with random long-range makes.
The 76ers perfected the attack Friday, and they strode off the Wells Fargo Center hardwood with a convincing 104-91 victory.
Philadelphia (24-17) was stronger, deeper, faster and tougher. And the 76ers were the better team.
Even with Utah (19-20) holding a three-point advantage with 2 minutes and 10 seconds left in the second quarter, the Jazz never truly threatened and never led again.
Andre Iguodala was in control. Evan Turner, too. Same for Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, Jrue Holiday and a 76ers defense that held Utah to just 40.5 percent shooting from the field and 27.3 percent behind the 3-point line.
If anything, the Jazz stayed within sight via gutsy play from reserves Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward, while relying on putback tip-ins to remain at arm’s length.
But when the minutes mattered, Philly stood up, Utah fell down, and the Jazz watched their momentum during a five-game road trip suddenly evaporate.
Utah returned to .500 by beating Cleveland and Charlotte, two of the NBA’s worst teams. The Jazz dipped back below the mark Friday by falling to a 76ers squad that played playoff-caliber basketball at the same time Utah’s lingering problems returned to the forefront.
“We haven’t arrived yet,” Jazz guard Devin Harris said. “We’ve had some good games, but we obviously still need to learn how to beat the good teams on the road. It’s a learning process for us. We’ll take one on the chin and move on to the next one.”
The next one should be even tougher.
As soon as the loss was over, the Jazz were already talking about Chicago. Guard Raja Bell remembers Utah being beat down 118-100 by the Bulls on March 12, 2011, in a loss that was worse than the score recorded. Even though the defeat is a season removed, the Jazz know they’ll only become the playoff-ready team they aspire to if they can knock off elite squads such as Philly and the Bulls away from Salt Lake City.
A Derrick Rose-led Chicago team entered Friday leading the Eastern Conference with the NBA’s second-best record (33-9), and the Bulls will be rested and primed, following a rare home defeat Wednesday to Orlando.
“We’re a team that’s out on the road, trying to get every win we can get to keep up the pace in this race for the eighth spot,” Bell said. “So it’s got to be business as usual.”
Jazz center Al Jefferson added: “They can be beat. They put their shorts on the same way we put our shorts on.”
To surprise the Bulls and salvage a five-game road trip that currently has Utah stuck at 2-2, the Jazz will quickly have to discover an outside touch that’s been missing all season. Utah entered Friday worst in the league in average 3-pointers made (3.7) and 29th out of 30 teams in 3-point percentage (30.1).
The 76ers traded Utah’s woeful numbers for a win. Loading the lane and allowing Jazz wings such as C.J. Miles and Bell to shoot freely, Philadelphia collected long rebounds, then flew down the court for 25 fast-break points.
Utah’s Paul Millsap (team-high 15 points), coach Tyrone Corbin and Jefferson said the Jazz missed shots they normally make. But statistics show the Jazz have rarely made them all season, and top-tier opponents will only increase their defensive focus as the playoffs approach.
Just like Philly did Friday.
“When you don’t make jump shots, man, they’re going to really funnel in there. We got on the weak side a few times and we just couldn’t get the shots to fall,” Corbin said. “They just got tighter and tighter, and it’s difficult for guys inside to get any good looks if they’ve got two or three guys on them the whole time.”
R IN SHORT • The Jazz drop to 2-2 on their five-game road trip by falling 104-91 to Philadelphia on Friday.
KEY MOMENT • Down 45-42, Philly outscores the Jazz 23-9 to take a 65-54 lead.
Key stat • Utah is outscored 25-14 in fast-break points and only hits 3 of 11 3-pointers.
Jazz at Bulls
R At United Center, Chicago
Tipoff • 6 p.m., Saturday. TV • ROOT Sports
Radio • 1320 AM, 1600 AM, 98.7 FM
Records • Jazz 19-20, Bulls 33-9
Last meeting • Bulls, 118-100 (March 12, 2011)
About the Jazz • The two teams Utah has beaten on its five-game road trip — Charlotte and Cleveland — are a combined 20-56. The two teams the Jazz have lost to — Dallas and Philadelphia — are 47-35.
About the Bulls • Chicago had won eight consecutive games before falling to Orlando on Thursday. … The Bulls entered Friday ranked first in the NBA in average assists (23.3), while being second in rebounds (45.8) and points allowed (88.5).