Sixers travel to Utah to take on the Jazz

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Philadelphia 76ers’ James Harden, left, and Joel Embiid celebrate after a basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Friday, Dec. 23, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia 76ers travel to Utah to face the Jazz in the first game of a five-game road trip. After dropping their last game against the Thunder on Thursday, the Sixers are looking to get back in the win column.

Game Details

Who: Philadelphia 76ers (25-16) at Utah Jazz (22-23)

Where: Vivint Arena, Salk Lake City, Utah

When: 9:00 pm EST

Watch: NBA Sports Philadelphia

For The Sixers

The Sixers are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday, 133-114. The Sixers need to start focusing on getting this team to play quality games, night in and night out. That will fall on head coach Doc Rivers, who still allows Embiid to hold the ball on the perimeter, late in games, as he did against the Thunder. Embiid needs to be dominant in the post.

Let James Harden handle running the offense. Harden has been dishing out assists like crazy of late, with 24 points and 15 assists in the game against the Thunder. Guard Tyrese Maxey is still getting back in the groove and that will improve as he plays more. What the team needs is consistent effort and for the reserves to actually play well when it counts.

Mattisse Thybulle has been a virtual ghost this season. De’Anthony Melton was streaking when Harden and Maxey were out and seems to be back to being almost forgotten about by their coach. PJ Tucker has been battling a knee injury most of the season and a hand injury that has truly hampered him since the start of December. Tucker needs to be rested and repaired if he’s going to help the Sixers come playoff time. But, he’s still out there 20-28 minutes per game and giving the team maybe 2 points per game, recently.

This is a very deep and talented team that seems to get in its own way. Off nights for shooting are one thing but there’s enough talent to spread it around when one or two players may be off. Having a whole team be off as well as not even trying to play defense isn’t going to get the Sixers far this season, this post-season, or in the future.

For a team that was built to play well into the later stages of the playoffs, they’ve looked like a team without a true identity and an early exit for the playoffs. It’s up to Harden and Embiid to get ahold of this situation now before it gets truly out of hand.

For The Jazz

The Jazz are on the back end of two games at home after defeating the Orlando Magic 112-108 on Friday night. Lauri Markkanen has been the leader of the revamped Jazz team this season averaging 24.6 points and 8.6 rebounds so far. Jordan Clarkson has been the other bright spot on the team 20.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. They’ve been getting consistent contributions from players like Malik Beasley, Collin Sexton, Kelly Olynyk, and Mike Conley.

The Jazz, currently, holds the 8th seed in the Western Conference and that’s a testament to the team that after trading Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, seemed to be looking at a lengthy retooling. The Jazz rank towards the bottom in the league for defensive rating, currently 26th. Their offensive rating is 4th in the league though, so they’re not going to be an easy opponent for the Sixers.

If Markkanen and Clarkson can contribute their usual production and the team continues to rotate players against the Sixers like Walker Kessler and Jared Vanderbilt, the Sixers may find themselves on the wrong end of another winnable game.

What to look for

The Sixers will have to come out and show some life. They’re going to need to shoot better than they did against the Thunder but, more importantly, they’re going to have to slow down the Jazz shooters, something they weren’t able to do against the Thunder.

The Jazz are a middle-of-the-league shooting team from beyond the three-point (36.1%) line but they have no fear as they’re attempting almost 40 per game compared to the Sixers (37.8%) who usually shoot around 33. The Sixers have to keep defensive pressure on the Jazz, while getting ball movement and rotation. There’s only so much they can lean on Harden and Embiid without constant contributions from the rest of the team.

This game could go either way, especially since the Jazz are 14-7 at home this year. Hopefully, the Sixers can use the loss to the Thunder as a learning experience and not let it get into their heads. If they do, which isn’t out of the question, they’re going to be looking at an actual losing streak as they move forward to take on the Lakers in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Prediction: Sixers 117 – Jazz 114