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Sixers-Jazz Preview: Up In The Air

This post wasn't sponsored by the Utah Department of Tourism, I swear.

Luc looks so happy here.
Luc looks so happy here.
Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Among the places I've needed to visit for work or fun, Salt Lake City is among my favorite. I went twice in the past 15 months, and there's a surprising amount of things to do. There's some nice restaurants, places to shop and visit, and a ton of parking (which, when you live in a Philadelphia neighborhood, you see as a luxury). My greatest regret is not being able to attend a Jazz game.

One thing I was able to do was visit Park City once during each trip. It's about 30 minutes or so away from the city proper and was the home for mountain-based activities during the 2002 Winter Olympics. Unlike many places that have hosted recent Olympic games, the area is still inhabited, and the facilities built are regularly used, though like all recent games the selection cost a ton of money that the providers will never get returned to them.

Park City is filled with restaurants and small hotels for tourists, and it still houses U.S. Olympic team training centers. One item used for training is a ski slope that leads directly into a gigantic swimming pool. They also have a U.S. winter olympic museum of sorts, with interactive displays and games for people to play. It also hosts the Sundance Film Festival each year, which I was able to actually go to for a night, and the area even had Olympic qualifiers on the same day. Aside from when the Olympics were actually occurring, that Friday night may have been the most happening time in Utah history.

Anyway, I tell you all of this because the 76ers play in Salt Lake City tonight, and one thing I remember from both trips was adjusting to the altitude. Salt Lake City is over 4,000 feet above sea level, which is a lot, especially when coming from Philadelphia. Walking up and down the hills in Utah, especially in Park City, basically took all the breath out of me and everyone I was with.

Denver gets the reputation for being that hardest road game of the year, especially when part of a back-to-back, because the altitude takes a few days to get used to. Utah isn't quite as elevated, but it's not easy. Add the lack of rest and an opponent that prioritizes ball movement, and tonight's game might be tough.

The not-very-aptly named Jazz (whose logo is either a musical note-J or a shot of the mountains which overlook the city the team calls home, depending on which part of the Derrick Favors shirsey I'm wearing that I choose to look at) hired former Sixers assistant coach Quin Snyder this summer, replacing not-good NBA coach Ty Corbin. Snyder brings a similar system used by the Atlanta Hawks (which is similar to ours, in theory) which so far has measured out as roughly league-average against a difficult schedule.

Gordon Hayward is producing at near-star levels, averaging 19 points on a career-high true shooting rate. Derrick Favors is becoming more of an offensive centerpiece, and Enes Kanter pairs with him to form one of the best two-true big offensive duos in the NBA. Unfortunately for Jazz fans, the 9-20 record combined with average offense means one thing: their defense is terrible. Favors has never lived up to his reputation, and other than Hayward is surrounded by defensive minuses.

Only Rudy Gobert, he of Roy Hibbert-like standing reach, is a good defender for his position. The Sixers should be able to capitalize and maybe resemble a real offense tonight. It won't matter, though, if the team lacks energy and effort like it did against Portland in last night's first half. Considering the altitude I mentioned above, keeping up with the Notes* might not be easy.

*I made this up now, and I'm sticking to it.