Philadelphia • As with any game, Saturday’s matchup between the Jazz and 76ers had myriad motivating factors in play.
For the rebuilding Sixers, coach Brett Brown has been candid with his players about the team being “ruthless” in its assessment of who will stay and who will go in the coming months. There are contracts at stake for Utah’s Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams and a handful of others once free agency opens in July. There’s a job on the line for Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin, who is in the last year of his deal. There are minutes up for grabs.
And then there was the matter of good, old-fashioned pride.
“We didn’t want to lose the other five games,” Jazz center Enes Kanter said of his team’s losing streak coming into Saturday’s night. “But tonight was different because they lost 15 in a row — and if we would lose it would be really bad.”
The Jazz pushed that streak to 16 on Saturday, beating Philadelphia 104-92 at the Wells Fargo Center, behind a team-high 22 points and eight assists from Hayward and knockout punch from the team’s young core.
“Man,” Williams said after an exhale in the locker room. “You see the morale in here right now. It tells you everything you need to know. It’s been a long trip for us. It’s been a learning experience for us. We’re just glad to be going back to Salt Lake.”
The greatest learning experience Saturday came for the Jazz’s youth, as Corbin closed out the game with Hayward, Kanter, Alec Burks, Trey Burke and Derrick Favors on the floor.
“The young guys got a chance to finish a game that was close,” Corbin said after his team had improved to 21-41 on the year. “All the minutes and all the possessions meant something. It was good for them to go through it.”
The group had a similar opportunity last week in Indianapolis, but came up short against the Pacers. On Saturday, a Sixers team that traded away two starters for draft picks at the deadline provided an easier training ground.
Philadelphia held a two-point lead at halftime, but behind seven third-quarter points apiece from Favors and Williams, the Jazz built up an 11-point lead in the third.
Philly’s Tony Wroten would help spark a Sixers comeback. The backup guard scored a career-high 30 points on 12-of-15 shooting, tying the game at 91 with a two-handed breakaway dunk with 2:51 to play.
At that point, Corbin called timeout “to settle them down a bit. We were a little frantic. They made a run at us. I wanted to make sure we settled them down and got them in a set.”Next Page »