MEMPHIS - All the diagramming, scheming and chess matches that occur in an NBA game usually go a long way in deciding a winner. Sometimes, though, it's much more simple.
With 5 minutes remaining in the first half on Wednesday and the Memphis Grizzlies holding a 10-point lead on the 76ers, coach Doug Collins quickly rose from his seat and called for his point guard, Jrue Holiday, to get within earshot.
"C'mon, Jrue, make some plays. Get the ball in your hands and make some plays," Collins implored.
From that point to the end of the half, the Sixers scored 14 of the game's next 16 points. Holiday, armed with a new shot of adrenaline, dealt three assists and scored a bucket during the blitz. That stretch - and Holiday's play against Mike Conley for the rest of the evening - went a long way toward getting the Sixers an improbable road win, 99-89. It was their first win away from home since Nov. 30 in Charlotte and only the third loss in 15 games for the Grizzlies at FedEx Forum.
"He has to [have the ball in his hands]," Collins said of Holiday. "This is a team that's not going to let you run a lot of set offense. They are going to make you make plays, not run them. I thought Jrue found Dorell [Wright] for a big three [late in the second quarter], and then we had the nice finish to go up two at the end of the half."
Wright, starting in place of Jason Richardson, who is out with a back strain, collected 28 points and six rebounds, while Spencer Hawes came off the bench for 20 points and nine boards. Holiday and Thaddeus Young scored 13 each, with Holiday equaling Evan Turner's nine assists. Nick Young came off the bench for 12 points.
Memphis was without Rudy Gay, who was away from the team for personal reasons. The word around the arena was that he was snowed in where he spent Christmas and didn't make it back in time.
Still, the Sixers (14-15) played their best basketball in quite some time, doing it in different ways. They got to the foul line consistently, making 16 of 23. They stuck with the ferocious Grizzlies on the boards (winning that battle, 38-37), and they shot 52.1 percent (37 of 71) from the floor. They also blocked 12 shots, including five by Hawes and four by Thaddeus Young.
Quizzically, Turner, averaging 15.3 points going into the game, scored only one point on the night. But Collins played him 40-plus minutes because he was so good in other areas, grabbing six rebounds and dealing nine assists.
"It's good we won," Turner said. "I don't like the fact that I came out with four shots, but we won the game, so that's all that matters. I'm going to play a complete game, whether I'm scoring or not. But I have to be able to be aggressive and keep attacking. I'm still going to do everything else, but I don't like the four-shot situation. But the win is the key."
After the Sixers opened a 15-point lead in the middle of the fourth quarter, Memphis went to its power game and was able to cut the lead to 90-82 on a three-point play by Zach Randolph. Turner and Hawes then hit one of two free throws, surrounding a Marc Gasol basket, and Wright made his fifth three-pointer of the night to give the Sixers a 95-84 advantage with 3:10 left in the game. There was little doubt about the outcome after that.
Randolph led Memphis (18-8) with 23 points and nine rebounds, while Gasol had 18 points and eight each of rebounds and assists.
"When you look at the numbers, if I would have told you that Jrue and Evan were going to be 5-for-20 [shooting] with 11 turnovers, I don't know if you would have liked our chances of winning on the road in Memphis, but I just think it shows you how well our guys played," Collins said. "I was incredibly proud of them."
The Sixers seldom fare well against physical teams, but they succeeded Wednesday night in their most important task - rebounding - which helped them to a 16-2 advantage in fastbreak points.
"As long as you're on the court and just playing, we're going to be a good team," said Thaddeus Young, who had three steals. "You see I only had two rebounds. You know what I was doing most of the night, just face-guarding and trying to keep Zach and other guys off the glass. It's huge we could get the rebounds and get out in transition and get easy buckets, because this is a team that thrives off getting boards, offensive rebounds, getting in transition and forcing rebounds."
The Sixers should provide and update on the status of Jason Richardson on Thursday. After the game, Richardson walked out of the locker room very gingerly. It appears he might be some time away from returning.