February 7, 2023

What to watch as the 76ers play the red-hot Jazz

Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

To snap their two-game losing streak, the 18-9 Philadelphia 76ers will need to defeat the 22-5 Utah Jazz on Monday night in Utah, and it’s not an easy task on paper. 

And here’s what to watch as the Sixers try to close out the road-trip with a .500 record:

Embiid listed as questionable & Conley still out 

Joel Embiid was listed as questionable on Sunday night’s injury report with back tightness. The Sixers came back in the fourth quarter on Jan. 31 the last time they were without Embiid, earning their first Embiid-less win of the season after four straight losses. If Embiid plays, his matchup against Rudy Gobert, again a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, is clearly one to watch. 

Shake Milton will miss a third consecutive game because of a left ankle sprain. The Sixers’ bench has been outscored by a total of 55 points over the past two contests without Milton.

Utah will be missing its starting point guard as Mike Conley who is sidelined with right hamstring tightness for a fifth game in a row. Conley started his second season with the Jazz well, averaging 16.5 points, 5.8 assists, and 3.7 rebounds, and shooting 41.0% from three-point range. Joe Ingles has replaced Conley in the starting lineup and sixth man Jordan Clarkson’s minutes have increased slightly during Conley’s absence. 

The big key to beating the West’s top team 

As one might expect with a team that’s won 18 of their last 19 games, Utah doesn’t have many obvious weaknesses.

An area where the Sixers might be able to have some success, though, is transition offense. According to Cleaning the Glass, 16.5 percent of the Sixers’ possessions are in transition (fifth in the NBA), and the team is adding 3.4 points per 100 transition possessions (sixth). Meanwhile, Jazz opponents are adding 2.9 points per 100 transition possessions. Utah is 18th in the league in that category. 

Essentially, the Sixers have been efficient when they play in the open floor and Utah’s defense hasn’t been quite so sturdy in that setting. Capitalizing on opportunities to run will be more important than usual for the Sixers on Monday night, especially given how strong the Jazz have been in half-court defense. 

How will Sixers wrap up their 4 game road-trip? 

The outcome of this game will heavily influence the complexion of the Sixers’ four-game West Coast road trip. If they win it, they can say they beat two hot teams, including one with the league’s best record. A 2-2 mark looks solid from that perspective, especially given the second-place Bucks’ three-game losing streak.

If the Sixers lose, and if recent problems with three-point shooting and bench play continue, then there’s likely a bit of urgency to turn things around back at home, where the team will play the Houston Rockets on Wednesday and the Chicago Bulls on Friday. Not every early-season game is a telling test, but this one could certainly have a significant impact on momentum. 

It also might play a larger role than most in determining how fans, players, media members, and coaches view All-Star balloting, with Ben Simmons vs. Donovan Mitchell a matchup many will be monitoring. 

Here are the essentials for tonight’s game: 

  • When: 9 P.M. E.S.T.
  • Where: Vivint Arena 
  • Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia 
  • Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

This should be heck of a game tonight. Let’s just hope it goes in the Sixers’ favor.

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