McKie is the key as 76ers top Jazz

This article was published in the Inquirer on December 27, 2000.

There was no Allen Iverson. There was no Eric Snow. And there was no problem.

Aaron McKie scored a season high of 24 points, Tony Kukoc added 15, and Tyrone Hill chipped in 13 points and eight rebounds last night as the shorthanded 76ers stunned Utah, 97-91, to pick up their first-ever win at the Delta Center and their first win of any kind in Utah since November 1987.

Going into the game, it seemed as if the only chance the Sixers, who also were without Matt Geiger, had of pulling out a win would be either a first-quarter ejection of Utah's Karl Malone or a 35-point night by fill-in guard Kevin Ollie, whom the Sixers recently signed.

After all, Utah, at 20-8, had the second-best record in the NBA going into the game and had beaten the Sixers 17 of the last 20 times the teams had met.

But none of that mattered. The Sixers (19-8) shot 53 percent from the field and had four players who scored in double figures.

John Stockton led Utah with 19 points and 12 assists. Malone, who had scored 41 points in Utah's win at the First Union Center last Wednesday, was held to 12 points - matching his season low.

"It was a great win," Sixers coach Larry Brown said. "Any time you come here and win, it's a miracle, and when you're so short-handed, it's even more significant. Aaron and Theo [Ratliff] were both sick; we were trying to find out ways to get Aaron to the bathroom from time to time. . . . A lot of people stepped up; it was an unbelievable team effort. "

Perhaps more surprising than the Sixers' win at the Delta Center was the way they won. They toyed with Utah. They never trailed and led by double figures in every quarter.

"This is a strange team from the point that when everything goes right, somebody finds out there's something wrong, and when everything goes wrong, we find a way to play good and win games," Kukoc said. "I was never on a team like that before, but I guess controversy is part of this team. So if it's going well that way, keep it that way. "

The Sixers were leading by 90-76 with 4 minutes, 5 seconds remaining in the game when the Jazz made one final push. Danny Manning scored. Stockton followed with a three-pointer. Bryon Russell then hit a three to cut the lead to 90-84 with 2:50 left.

But Hill hit two free throws, then drilled a 12-foot jumper at the two-minute mark to open up a 94-86 lead that was big enough to hold off Utah.

"They seemed to outhustle us more of the time," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "They did a great job of being ready to play. "

The Sixers' lead had ballooned to 35-20 in the second quarter after they opened the period with a 12-2 run.

Hill started it with a pair of free throws. After Manning converted a three-point play for Utah, the Sixers scored the next 10 points off a bucket by Ollie, a jumper and a pair of free throws by newly signed Rodney Buford, a layup by Todd MacCulloch, and two free throws by McKie with 7:48 remaining in the half.

Everything went the Sixers' way early. When Ratliff shot an air ball, Jumaine Jones caught the ball and tossed it in as the buzzer on the 24-second clock sounded.

Utah managed to trim the lead to 11, at 51-40, after Russell scored the final three points of the quarter, but that didn't change the fact that the Sixers dominated the half. They outrebounded Utah by 21-14, holding the Jazz to 37 percent shooting.

Despite a quiet first quarter for Hill and Kukoc (two points between them), the Sixers were in control, thanks to the one-two punch of Ratliff and McKie.

Ratliff had seven points and two blocked shots before he picked up his second foul and was sent to the bench. McKie scored eight points.

Notes. Iverson missed his first game because of the partially dislocated right shoulder he suffered against the New York Knicks on Friday. The star guard has missed 23 games in his career - 20 to injury and three to suspension. The Sixers lost 13 of those games. He is scheduled to begin physical therapy Saturday. When he can return to the lineup will be determined by his response to the rehabilitation process. . . . With Snow, the Sixers had put together a 14-4 record. Without the point guard, they are 5-4. Since Snow has been out, the most noticeable dropoff has been in rebounding and defense. The Sixers are giving up almost seven more points per game and their rebounding has fallen by nearly 4.5 per game. Snow underwent surgery on his right ankle Dec. 12 and is expected to miss several more weeks.