MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Before his team faced the powerful Memphis Grizzlies to begin its daunting seven-game Western road swing, 76ers coach Doug Collins had a hunch that Dorell Wright was the right man to inject into the starting lineup in place of the injured Jason Richardson.
After Wright went for a season-high 28 points against one of the better defensive teams in the league to lead the Sixers (14-15) to a 99-89 victory at the FedEx Forum on Wednesday, it was clear he made the right choice.
Wright looked like the player he was advertised to be when the Sixers traded for him during the offseason, connecting on 8 of 11 field goals (5 of 8 from behind the three-point arc).
"He makes us a tough team," said Sixers forward Thaddeus Young, who finished with 13 points and a season-high four blocks. "He has been pretty much the key to our success. When he plays well we tend to win basketball games."
This is true. The Sixers improved to 4-1 in games Wright has started, and all those wins have been on the road.
The win also ended the Sixers' road losing streak at six games and gave them their first win away from the Wells Fargo Center since they defeated the Charlotte Hornets Nov. 30.
The loss dropped the Grizzlies to 18-8. It was just their third home loss of the season.
The victory was great for the Sixers in that it was the first of seven games on a trip that takes them to the West Coast and resumes Friday at Golden State, Wright's former team.
"The first one is always good to get because it gives us that momentum on this trip, a long trip," Wright said. "Everybody stepped up. We shot the ball very well. . . . It was a whole-team effort."
Spencer Hawes played perhaps his best game of the season against the Grizzlies' physical lineup of Zach Randolph (23 points, nine rebounds) and Marc Gasol (18 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists). He finished with 20 points and nine rebounds and matched his season-high with five blocks.
Rudy Gay, the Grizzlies' leading scorer at 18.2 points per game, did not play. He was apparently stranded back East by bad weather.
The Sixers shot the ball well (52.1 percent) against the second-best defensive team in the league, they got to the free-throw line 23 times (making just 16), and they showed fortitude in erasing a pair of 10-point deficits in the first and second quarters.
Most impressive to Collins was that when the Sixers saw the Grizzlies charge back from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter and cut the lead to 91-84, the Sixers held the Grizzlies to just two more baskets in the final 4 minutes, 3 seconds.
"I like the fact that we finished the game," Collins said. "That was huge. I told the guys to finish out the game. They did tonight."
Memphis is home to Young. So the Sixer went straight to Memphis from Brooklyn to spend as much time as possible with his family, including his mother, Lula Hall.
Young related before the game how his mother didn't want to quit her job at a local warehousing and storage company where she had worked for years.
Young said he had to make Hall, who was one of many family members and friends at the game, retire.
"When I got drafted she kept on working and didn't tell me," said Young, who last December signed a five-year, $42 million extension with the Sixers. "My sister told me a few months in that Mom was still working. . . .
"She wasn't trying to live off of her son's dreams or riches or anything like that. That lets you know that you have a great mom who is willing to do anything."