Sixers Look to Avenge Loss in Second Matchup Against Jazz

Ben Simmons
PHILADELPHIA, PA – MAY 05: Philadelphia 76ers Guard Ben Simmons (25) looks toward the net during warmups before the Eastern Conference Semifinal Game between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers on May 05, 2018 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

In their final game before the all-star break, the Sixers will take on the Utah Jazz at 7:00 PM EST tonight. .

Each team sits in first place in their respective conferences and will look to head into the break on a positive note.

The Jazz will travel to Philly for this matchup and the Sixers currently have a 15-3 record at home on the season and 23-12 record overall. This will also be the last game for the Jazz before the break and they are listed as 3.5 point favorites going into the game.

The Sixers have cooled down some since their red-hot start. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games, averaging 114 points while holding opponents to 112.5 points during this stretch. They remain in first place in the East by just half a game, so securing a victory is extremely important to make sure the team heads into the break leading the East.

The Jazz remain with the best record in the NBA at 27-8. In the past 10 games, the Jazz are 7-3 and averaging 121.1 points while holding their opponents to 110.5 points per game.

Sixers vs Jazz Previous Matchup

This powerhouse matchup has occurred once already this season in which the Jazz won by a score of 134-123.

This game occurred on February 15th and Joel Embiid was forced to miss the matchup due to a last-minute scratch which was listed as “back tightness.” In response, Ben Simmons scored a career-high 42 points as he began the recent hot streak of play that he remains on.

Outside of Tobias Harris and a solid 14-point performance from Dwight Howard, the Sixers struggled to help Simmons and it was this lack of other production that led to the loss. The 40-point performance from Jordan Clarkson ultimately proved to be too much for the Sixers.

The main takeaways in this game were the lack of bench production from the Sixers and lack of three-point shooting from the team. While the Jazz knocked down 18 of their 45 three-point attempts, the Sixers shot just 23 three-pointers and connected on 8 of them.

Injury Report

This will be one of the healthier matchups of the season as the only player on the Jazz Injury report is Udoka Azubuike. The former Kansas Jayhawk will be held out of the Sixers matchup due to an ankle injury that he sustained.

On the Sixers side of things, Tobias Harris is the only player on the injury report due to the knee injury he has been battling. Harris has missed the last two Sixers games after originally injuring it in the Mavericks matchup.

Doc Rivers gave hope to Harris’ availability in his postgame press conference after the Pacers game. Doc said Tobi was close to playing in that game and it was ultimately the Sixers who made the decision to keep him out of the lineup.

Tobias Harris has been greatly missed in his absence and the 20.2 points per game would provide a necessary pop to the lineup. He remains questionable on the injury report, but there is a much more positive feel to his chances of playing compared to the first two games he missed.

It is also notable that Joel Embiid is not on the injury report. Despite being questionable for the previous matchup and battling through some ankle pain, Embiid was able to suit up and appears to be in line to do the same tonight.

Sixers’ Keys to the Game

This is an extremely important game for the Sixers. Securing a victory would assure the team will head into the all-star break in first place in the East.

The importance of this has been stressed by Doc Rivers, Joel Embiid, and many other members of the team and this goal is firmly within reach.

If Tobias Harris is able to play it will make a major impact for the Sixers. The team is significantly better when all three of its stars are in the lineup and this is not a matchup they can sleepwalk through.

Joel Embiid being on the floor also changes things greatly for the Sixers. The entire offense shifts when he misses a game, so having him available in this one should help the Sixers get back to their typical offense. Rudy Gobert is another DPOY candidate and will look to guard Embiid in this one, but historically this is a matchup that Joel has got the better of, and expect him to come into the game with a chip on his shoulder.

Look for an increased focus on three-point shooting from the Sixers in their second matchup against the Jazz. Being outshot by 22 three-pointers is never a recipe for success and this has been a storyline that has caused frustration throughout the season.

While the Jazz rank first in the league in three-point shooting, this is too large of a gap to give them and is an issue that Rivers should have adjustments made for.

It is also important to note that Shake Milton will be available for this game as he missed the previous matchup against the Jazz. This will go along way in solving the bench issues that were evident and this increase in bench production may be enough for the Sixers to find a different result.