PHILADELPHIA, March 27 (Ticker) --
While the Philadelphia 76ers were
missing Allen Iverson
, Richard Jefferson
Jefferson scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half,
leading a rookie brigade, as the New Jersey Nets rolled to an
88-80 victory over the offensively challenged 76ers.
The defending Eastern Conference champion 76ers figure to play
the rest of the regular season without Iverson, the NBA leader
in scoring, steals and minutes per game who is out for at least
four weeks with a broken left hand. Philadelphia had lost its
first eight games without its superstar but notched a 90-82
victory Sunday over New York.
"It's hard, but it's something we are going to do because we are faced with that for the rest of the year," 76ers forward Matt Harpring
said. "We just have to have people step up and we have to execute on offense. In order to contend for the playoffs, we have to execute on the court."
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Keith Van Horn shot a paltry 15% (2-13), but contributed in other ways with 11 rebounds.
Jesse D. Garrabrant
"He's not coming back, so there is no need too say, 'We miss Allen,'" Sixers guard Eric Snow
said. "We will miss him every game. The leading scorer in the league, we're going to miss him every game. So if every game if you're going to say, 'You miss Allen,' I'll answer the question for you already: We're missing him tomorrow and the day after that."
In this one, the Sixers clearly missed Iverson, going over six minutes without a basket during one stretch and failing to develop any offensive rhythm.
Meanwhile, Jefferson and the rest of the Nets showed why they have supplanted the Sixers atop the conference. They ran at every opportunity and also were effective in their half-court offense, especially in the second half.
Jefferson had a lot to do with that. He scored six points in a decisive run that opened the third quarter and added 10 in the fourth period as he outplayed Harpring and fell two points shy of his season high.
"I missed my first couple of shots tonight but I knew I was going to get plenty of chances," said Jefferson, who started for the suspended Kenyon Martin
. "Looking at some of the other rookies on some other teams, I know that they are putting up some larger numbers and getting the recognition. I just wanted to prove these last couple of games that if I did get minutes on a consistent basis, what I could do."
Fellow rookie Jason Collins
scored all 10 of his points in the final quarter for the Nets (46-26), who won for just the second time in their last 10 road games. Nevertheless, they beat the Sixers for the first time in three meetings this season and opened a 3 1/2-game lead over Detroit in the race for the East's best record.
"I thought that if we don't beat these guys and we meet them somewhere down the line, they would have the edge," Nets coach Byron Scott said. "That's something you don't want any team to have over you when you enter the playoffs. It was big for us to get a 'W' over these guys, just to let them know that we can beat them." "They did exactly what they had to do," Sixers coach Larry Brown said. "They got contributions from their bench, and contributions from their young guys. We just had too many guys who really struggled and as a result we didn't get it done." Snow scored 21 points for Philadelphia (37-33), which was caught by Charlotte for sixth place in the ever-changing East.
The Sixers held the Nets to 10 points on 5-of-25 shooting in the first quarter and still held a 34-30 lead after a three-point play by Derrick Coleman
with 1:43 left in the second period. But they went more than six minutes until their next basket.
"I don't think we were sluggish. It's just that guys didn't execute," Snow said. "I don't call that sluggish. Sluggish is when you play four games in five nights and you don't have energy. When you don't get to the right spot or you're not executing, that's not sluggish. That's just basically mental."
Jefferson made a runner before 3-pointers by Kerry Kittles
and Keith Van Horn
gave New Jersey a 38-34 halftime lead. Jefferson had two alley-oop dunks and another hoop as the Nets extended to a 49-35 lead with 9:19 left in the third quarter.
"After the first quarter, we just weathered their storm," Jefferson said. "The first two losses that we had, they got out real big. So as long as we weathered that storm, we knew we going to do that typical Nets' run where we just get out and get things going."
A layup by Jason Kidd
gave New Jersey its largest lead at 60-44 with 5:09 remaining before Philadelphia got back in it with 10 straight points. However, Jefferson had a basket in a 6-0 spurt that restored New Jersey's double digit lead.
Jefferson opened the fourth quarter with another dunk off a lob, giving the Nets a 68-56 lead. Philadelphia got no closer than six points thereafter as Jefferson and Collins made it look easy.
"(Collins) just does all the little things," Scott said. "He plays extremely well on both ends of the court. He is extremely intelligent and he finds the little seams. He did a great job of doing what we do every day in practice."
Kidd had 14 points and 10 assists and Kittles and Aaron Williams
scored 10 points each for the Nets, who made 6-of-12 3-pointers and held a 48-43 rebounding edge.
Coleman scored 13 points and Dikembe Mutombo
added 12 for the Sixers, who made 1-of-8 from the arc and lost for the fourth time in their last five home games.