It just wasn’t their night.
It looked like it was off the get-go, but the 76ers failed from beyond the arch and off the glass 118-96 loss to the Utah Jazz at the Wells Fargo Center.
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak and dropped the Sixers to 14-12.
Joel Embiid had 19 points on 8-for-18 shooting and nine rebounds. Seth Curry recorded 18 points while Tobias Harris posted 17.
Jazz star Donovan Mitchell led his squad to 22 points and six assists.
Here’s three takeaways:
Differences from long range and on the glass
Utah leads the NBA in offensive rating and lived up to it Thursday night in the first half. For the game, the Jazz made 15-of-40 from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, the Sixers only made 3-of-18 threes in the first half, 6-for-33 on the night. Danny Green was 0-for-4 beyond the arc in a scoreless night.
Defensive rebounding was also a major issue for the Sixers, as it’s been all season. Some of the offensive boards were a bit puzzling, including one on which the ball bounced out to Gobert with no Sixer looking like they wanted the ball.
The Sixers’ lack of size in the backcourt is a fair excuse, but the feeling is this team still shouldn’t struggle as much as it does collectively. For instance, Andre Drummond let Hassan Whiteside grab a few offensive rebounds in the third quarter simply because Drummond didn’t box out or react until the ball was almost in Whiteside’s hands.
Drummond is obviously a strong rebounder on most nights, but the Sixers need him to be consistent.
Given how allowing extra possessions always seems to haunt teams in the playoffs, it’s a weakness the Sixers will need to improve upon over the next several months.
Showing promises early
Embiid drilled his first three shots, making two mid-range jumpers against Rudy Gobert and a three-pointer off of a pick-and-pop with Curry.
The Curry-Embiid duo looked dangerous early. Against drop coverage, there’s enough space for them to operate and create the best method of attack.
Curry drove baseline for a layup right after Embiid’s three-ball, in part because Gobert was alert of Embiid popping again. The Sixers also got Harris an open three on the weak side of the action shortly after.
Later in the first quarter, Embiid laid the ball in on a good side pick-and-roll with Curry.
Those are a few examples of what I stated before.
Whiteside backed up Gobert and the Jazz rotated so that the three-time Defensive Player of the Year saw a lot of time against Drummond. Gobert was, not surprisingly, the better player in that matchup.
Embiid’s shooting cooled off and the Sixers turned to more post-ups as the game moved along. Mitchell and the Jazz were also effective at not allowing Curry the ball or at least forcing him to work hard to receive it well beyond the arc. That approach has been one reason running late-game offense through Curry-Embiid actions is sometimes easier said than done.
Big matchup and a scary moment for Maxey
Mitchell began the game with the confidence, as one would expect from the Western Conference’s reigning Player of the Week. He hunted down pull-up threes and made four long-distance jumpers in the first half.
Tyrese Maxey started out guarding Mitchell, though Matisse Thybulle was ended up on him soon enough. Unexpectedly, Thybulle’s offense shined more than his defense in his opening stint. He tallied seven first-quarter points on a fast-break alley-oop, a put-back dunk, and a catch-and-shoot three. Unfortunately, Thybulle did not continue it. He committed a bad third-quarter turnover on a cross-court pass, which led to a Hassan Whiteside and-one in transition.
Maxey was playing well in the second quarter when he had a significant injury scare. He scored a lefty layup on Whiteside and fell to the floor hard. It looked like he hit his head on the court. Eventually, Maxey rose to his feet with a smile and went back to the Sixers locker room with head athletic trainer Kevin Johnson. He showed a big smile once again and heard cheers from the home fans when he headed to the scorer’s table a couple of minutes later to check back in.
In short, Shake Milton taking Maxey’s spot would’ve served as an answer if the second-year guard was unable to continue. Still, whatever happens with Ben Simmons, it appears likely that Maxey needs to be important if the Sixers want to contend for a championship.
Mitchell was quiet after a 17-point first half, but the Jazz spread the ball around nicely and manufactured plenty of good shots. Eight Jazz players scored in double figures.
As for Maxey, he finished with 11 points on 5-for-10 shooting in his second game back from a non-COVID illness.
Oh by the way, Embiid left the game in the third quarter after experiencing abdominal pain on his right side. But was evaluated and cleared to return.