SALT LAKE CITY - They shot well for much of the evening. They moved the ball. They attacked the middle. They even got 22 points from the bench in the first half.
But these are the 76ers, and they do a lot right for a lot of the game. But not for enough of it.
These are the Sixers, who played the Utah Jazz to a standoff for much of the first half, then wilted in the face of a 10-0 Jazz run that was part of a 13-4 finish.
As it turned out, that was the beginning of the end. Before this was over, the Jazz led by as many as 20 points en route to a 112-95 victory.
This wasn't Denver, where the Sixers gave back a 17-point third-quarter lead. This was Salt Lake City, where they fell behind by 13 points early in the third quarter and then by 15 at the end of the period.
Again, this wasn't Denver, where Andre Iguodala said, "We played well enough to win. We just didn't win."
Again, this was Salt Lake City, where the Sixers (12-18) played just well enough to stay close for a while. But not long enough.
And for the first time in his seven games as the coaching replacement for the fired Maurice Cheeks, Tony DiLeo showed a touch of anger in his postgame meeting with reporters.
Asked about the poor finish in the first half, DiLeo said, "I thought we played a good, competitive game for the first 22 minutes."
He added: "What costs us sometimes is, we have these little phases where we let teams pull away, and the last 2 minutes of the first half was a situation where we didn't close out. It's happened in some of the other games in the past, and we have to eliminate that.
"The second-half defense, I was not happy with. [The Jazz] had too many layups, and that was one of our game plans, to try to stop them from getting fastbreak layups. They're a really good team that really executes and plays well together, and it's really tough when you're not on your game defensively."
DiLeo said they talked at halftime about "getting back to our game."
That didn't happen.
"I was disappointed in our defensive intensity in the second half," DiLeo said. "We made it too easy for them. Either we got tired or we lost focus, and our defense let us down . . . I thought we were making progress. We have to correct that."
They have to correct a lot of things. They lost for the fourth straight time and the third time in a row on the road. They also dropped to 3-4 under DiLeo.
"We have to stay focused for 48 minutes, not just for a period of time," Reggie Evans said. "We have to be ready for any opportunity on the floor."
And, Evans agreed, the dropoff wasn't just in the second half.
"We fell off major . . . really the last part of the first half," he said. "It carried over and [the Jazz] stuck with it."
They did hit a three-point shot (1-for-9) and avoided going without one for the third time in four games. The Jazz, led by point guard Deron Williams' 27 points, drained eight shots from beyond the arc. They were without the injured Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap and Jarron Collins, but center Mehmet Okur was back in the starting lineup after missing Saturday night's game in Houston with back spasms.
Okur put up 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Andrei Kirilenko had 16 points and 13 rebounds, C.J. Miles had 14 points and former Sixer Kyle Korver had 12. Iguodala and Thaddeus Young each finished with 17 points for the Sixers. Evans and Samuel Dalembert combined for 22 rebounds.
The 19-14 Jazz climbed to 12-4 in EnergySolutions Arena, 17-3 when holding opponents under 100 points and 13-6 vs. sub-.500 opponents.
"Coach [Jerry] Sloan and his offense, they put guys in certain places," Iguodala said. "They've been winning forever. No matter who they put in, they just plug guys in and it works."
Someday, the Sixers will learn to play all the way through. But how do they learn?
"We haven't figured it out yet," Willie Green said. "We come out looking good, and at some point we mentally just collapse. We have a chance to be a solid team, but we can't win with the lapses we've had on defense. They were picking us apart."
This, of course, being the NBA, there's always another game. If ever there were a chance to play all the way through it would seem to be tomorrow night when the Sixers visit the Los Angeles Clippers.
The poor Clippers, missing the injured Zach Randolph and Chris Kaman, learned yesterday that the injured Ricky Davis will be suspended for five games for a violation of the league's anti-drug policy, although the penalty will not be invoked until the first game in which the Clippers determine he is healthy enough to play.
Still, the Clippers are probably thinking this is one they can win. They've seen the same Sixers everyone else has. *
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