PHILADELPHIA — Shortly after the season began, the Philadelphia 76ers rewarded point guard Jrue Holiday with a four-year, $41 million contract extension.
Money well spent.
Holiday had a career-high 33 points and 13 assists, leading the Philadelphia 76ers over the Phoenix Suns 104-101 on Sunday.
The 22-year-old made several big plays down the stretch, one night after scoring just six points in a rare off game in an overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“I like having the feel of the game with the pressure on to take the ball in my hands,” said Holiday, who did have 13 assists against the Thunder. “At crunch-time, I think I made the right plays.”
Evan Turner scored 16 points, Lavoy Allen had 11 and Thaddeus Young 10 for the 76ers, who snapped a two-game losing streak. The Sixers (8-6) haven’t dropped three in a row all season.
“It was a great win for us,” Young said. “We take a lot of pride in how we play and we didn’t want to lose three straight. I think Jrue set the tone from the beginning with his aggressive play.
“He put us on his shoulders.”
Michael Beasley led the Suns with 21 points while Marcin Gortat added 18.
Sebastian Telfair scored 12 points, Jermaine O’Neal had 11 while Goran Dragic and Luis Scola had 10 each for the Suns (6-8), who had won two in a row.
It was the first stop of a six-game road trip for the Suns.
“We have a young team, but there are no excuses in this league,” O’Neal said. “You have to bring it every night. We have a really good team with a lot of really good players. I think it’s just a mental mistake here or there that is costing us games.”
After the Suns closed to 95-91, Holiday put his stamp on the outcome in more ways than one. Jason Richardson missed a 3-pointer, but Holiday cleared space in the lane, snared the offensive rebound and converted a three-point play for a 98-91 lead with 3 minutes, 47 seconds remaining.
“That was big,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said.
Holiday now has five double-doubles after compiling just one in the last year’s lockout-shortened 66-game regular season.
“I had to come out and be aggressive,” Holiday said. “I knew we were a little tired from last night.”
The 76ers then struggled after Holiday’s three-point play, missing four straight shots.
Phoenix answered with a 6-0 run and pulled to 98-97 after O’Neal’s baseline jumper with 1:06 left.
On Philadelphia’s ensuing possession, Richardson responded with a tough 15-footer for a 100-97 advantage.
Beasley hit two free throws and Holiday came right back with a jumper for a 102-99 lead.
Holiday made one of two free throws for a 103-101 lead.
“Jrue has been doing it all season,” Young said. “He’s been playing at an extremely high level.”
Beasley had a chance to tie it but missed a wide-open layup with 2.8 seconds remaining.
“We had our chances but couldn’t capitalize,” O’Neal said. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have to come back and do the little things that are necessary to win in this league, especially on the road.”
Despite being outrebounded 26-16, the Sixers took a 46-41 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Notes: The Sixers missed eight straight field goals from 7:05 to 2:54 of the first quarter. ... Gortat has started 90 consecutive games and has appeared in 134 straight since being acquired by the Suns. ... The Sixers were 9 of 19 from 3-point territory. ... Turner hit three 3-pointers, a career-high.