With center Joel Embiid returning to the Philadelphia lineup fresh off a two-game suspension, many fans felt the Sixers were primed to get back to their winning ways. However, an early injury and some sloppy play late in the game led to Philly dropping their second game in a row (106-104).
Joel Embiid: 27 points, 16 rebounds, 16/18 FT
Josh Richardson: 24 points, 4 assists, steals
Donovan Mitchell: 24 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds
Entering the evening in Utah, it was expected to be an extremely physical night. After all, both teams are ranked near the top of the league in defensive rating and rebounding. The matchup of star bigs Embiid and reigning 2x Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert would no doubt add to this physicality.
Early on things went about as expected. Embiid was doubled in the post right from the jump, Donovan Mitchell was a midrange machine, and Josh Richardson was his usual explosive self (he finished the night with a season-high in points).
Disaster for Philly struck about ten minutes into the game, as point guard Ben Simmons appeared to aggravate his shoulder on a post up. After leaving for the locker room, NBCS reporter Serena Winters revealed he would not return.
The lack of Simmons’ presence made a notable impact on the game. Newly signed guard Raul Neto had to play significant minutes going forward which gave the Jazz an apparent advantage in the size department (outrebounded the Sixers 50-42).
As the third quarter began, frustrations started growing for the depleted 76ers squad. Mitchell came out of the half with a quick 9 points, the Sixers went on a 5-minute scoreless streak, and head coach Brett Brown received a technical foul.
With Philly now down by double digits heading into the final frame, they had to lean on their stars, and lean they did. Embiid and Tobias Harris combined for 20 points in the fourth quarter, including shooting 12/14 at the free-throw line. Their efforts bringing the game all the way down to a one-score game in the closing minutes.
Despite the duo’s heroics, the Sixers ultimately failed to overcome the odds. A missed free throw, a turnover, and the failure to quickly foul all led to the Jazz being able to escape with the W.
Ben Simmons is Hurt
As previously mentioned, Simmons left the game with just over ten minutes played due to a shoulder injury. As I’m writing this it’s being reported by a few sources that it is just a sprain, but more tests will be undergone before the team’s next game.
Despite the general criticism on Ben’s lack of a jumper, he’s blatantly crucial to this team’s success, last night’s loss should prove that. Him missing any sort of extended time could prove a serious issue.
The 76ers were outshot by their opponents yet again on Wednesday night (36.4% vs 32.0%). It’s going to be really tough for this team to contend deep into the playoffs come that time with Furkan Korkmaz and Al Horford as their top two perimeter threats. It may be time to give someone like Trey Burke some minutes out there.
Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports