Game Preview | With Steady Approach, Bayless Aims to Build Off Big Night

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

Scene Setter:

As much as Jerryd Bayless could have used a performance like the one he had in Denver, he wasn’t about to overdramatize its significance, let alone pat himself on the back for it.

It’s been 10 years, after all, he told reporters inside Pepsi Center’s visitors locker room.

The comment was a reference to Bayless’ decade-long tenure in the NBA. Implicit in his reminder was a measured, veteran understanding that can only come with first-hand experience.

Over the course of a long, marathon season, some days, weeks, months, even, are better than others.

Every now and then, as Bayless seems to realize, they can be really better.

Such was the case for Bayless Saturday versus the Nuggets, as he summoned up an unconscious, timely spurt that propelled the 76ers to a welcomed 107-102 victory.

With his squad in the midst of building a revitalizing second-half run, the 29-year old took matters into his own hands - his right hand, specifically. 

First came the alley-oop lay-up that sliced the Sixers’ deficit to one, after the margin had ballooned to 14 points just minutes earlier. Then there was the 19-foot jumper that vaulted the Sixers in front, 77-76, followed by a driving score that nudged the Sixers’ lead to three.

After briefly cooling down for the final minute of Saturday’s third quarter, Bayless caught fire again at the outset of the fourth. He canned a 3-pointer 14 seconds into the period, then stole an inbound pass and subsequently stuck a stepback jumper. On the Sixers’ next trip down the floor, Bayless buried another three.

Timeout, Denver. Elation, Sixers’ sideline. Scoreboard, 91-80.

Erupting for what ended up being all 14 of his points in less than four minutes of regulation time, Bayless capped the Sixers’ staggering 33-8 second-half surge in dramatic, explosive fashion. The combo guard had entered the evening shooting under 35.0 percent from the field for the month of December, and roughly the same from 3-point territory.

Nonetheless, there was Bayless, rising to the occasion on a night his club was short handed (Joel Embiid was held out on the front end of a back-to-back), and very much looking for another win to help further distance itself from a recent string of up-and-down results.

“It feels good,” Bayless said after the Sixers’ second triumph in three tries. “It’s a big one. We needed this. We just got to keep on trending in the right direction.”

As for the personal stamp he left on Saturday’s tilt? Bayless wasn’t ready to make too much of it.

Similar to most of his post-game locker room dissection sessions, Bayless was business like Saturday, and matter-of-fact. 

“I think it was a mix of a lot of things,” said Bayless of his outing. “My teammates, they really helped. Brett made some calls for me, so it worked out.”

Indeed it did.

Mentioning “Brett,” of course, was a nod to Sixers’ head coach Brett Brown. Brown was proud to see Bayless, a player for whom he has great respect, break out in a big way.

Lately, Brown said Saturday, the focus has been to situate Bayless in settings “where he can get some of his swagger and his mojo back,” and “feel good about himself.”

Bayless’ teammates were happy for him, too.

“I know he’s capable of that,” said JJ Redick, who Saturday turned in a steady 18-point effort. “He’s a pro’s pro. He’s a great scorer, and he can really shoot the basketball.”

Ben Simmons used words like “huge” and “amazing” to describe Bayless’ contributions.

“He played really well,” the rookie point man said. “That’s exactly what we need from guys like that - step up, and hit shots.”

Despite Bayless’ touch ebbing and flowing the past few weeks, Brown has admired that the 2016 free agent signing has maintained his standard work ethic. Bayless’ commitment to refining his game is a defining quality.

“He works as hard as any player on the team,” Brown said recently. “His day starts when mine does. You go in at like 6:00 am, 6:30, and shortly thereafter you hear the tom toms, and he’s in a gym with a ball. That could be after a game.

“He’s just a maniacal worker. He’s very anal with his preparation. When he doesn’t perform like he wants to perform, he doesn’t shoot like he wants to shoot, he wakes up early and tries to fix it quick.”

Against Denver, Bayless’ stroke was back, much to the Sixers’ benefit. As scheduling would have it, he and the team will be in his hometown of Phoenix Sunday. The objective will be to keep moving forward.

“When we play the right way, we’re pretty good, and I think it shows,” said Bayless. “We just got to continue to do that.”

Opponent Outlook:

While the Phoenix Suns (14-23) might dwell towards the bottom of the pack in the Western Conference, the young club has been playing decently as of late, with wins in five of its past seven games. Of particular note, Phoenix has won both of its contests since Devin Booker returned from a three-week injury absence (groin). During this stretch, the talented guard has combined to score 58 points (on 18 for 46 shooting, however). The Kentucky product burst for a season-best 46 points on December 4th, when the Suns beat the Sixers at The Center, 115-101.

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