The Sixers beat Utah in Salt Lake City for the first time since 2005 tonight despite Ben Simmons’ least efficient shooting night of his young career, the conspicuous absence of one Joel Hans Embiid, and the contrivance of the refs to call every ticky-tacky foul against them.
Not too shabby.
Simmons led the way, proving his superstar bona fides once again, with a line of 16 points (on a mediocre 7-22 shooting), 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocked shots. Despite struggling to convert his short midrange jumpers that he has made a living on since arriving in Philly, he still put together a strong game, finding ways to contribute in other ways despite scoring. This was probably Simmons’ best defensive game of the season so far, as he blew up several Jazz possessions, had a couple of fantastic verticality moments at the rim, and read the passing lanes brilliantly.
The short story of the game is that the Sixers have shooters who can make an open jump shot, while the Jazz do not. Robert Covington, JJ Redick, and Dario Saric (who had by far his best game of the season) combined to shoot 11-21 from deep, giving the Sixers the firepower they needed to put the Jazz away. The Jazz backcourt duo of Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell, meanwhile, shot 2-16. That’s the game in a nutshell.
The Jazz put up one of the ugliest shooting games I’ve ever seen, missing horribly from nearly every location (peep their percentiles in this table).
(Stats courtesy of CleaningTheGlass.com)
Both teams struggled to get to the rim. Gobert’s presence meant the Sixers were settling for an awful lot of long jumpers, and their offense looked stilted at times. However, it was worlds better than the Jazz’s affront of an attack; Rubio couldn’t penetrate into the lane, and none of their secondary handlers could either. So they were left hoisting ugly jumpers and depending on the refs to bail them out.
I’m not one to criticize refereeing decisions very often, but this was a frustrating game from a foul-calling perspective. The Sixers committed 33 fouls to the Jazz’s 22, but the disparity was even larger before the Jazz started hacking to end the game. Some of that is due to Gobert’s and Favors’ size advantage over the Sixers’ backup big men, but mostly we just couldn’t get a call. It was a frustrating way to see a team remain in a game the Sixers had controlled from end to end.
In the end, it didn’t matter, as a third quarter run powered by the Sixers’ shooters and Simmons gave the team enough of a cushion to hold on for the win. We’re now 6-4 with a game against the lowly Kings on deck, and Embiid slotted to return for the next two games. It’s a pretty awesome feeling.
(Very quick!) Other Thoughts:
- Richaun struggled with foul trouble (because: refs), and didn’t put up the O numbers he’s capable of, but I was impressed with his defense. He stayed home and focused on his positioning. The team looked good with him in today.
- Dario had himself a game — 25 points and 10 rebounds. It was good to have him back.
- This may be due to Dario putting up his best shooting night of the season, but I didn’t miss Bayless. He can shoot, but he brings so many negatives that it’s tough to play him major minutes beyond that.
- He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named made a brief cameo. It was ugly.
It’s midnight on the East Coast, so I’m out for now.