It’s been a solemn 48 hours for the Utah Jazz. Fresh off one of the worst losses in franchise history on Wednesday night, the Jazz will be looking to pick up the pieces tonight in Philadelphia as they face the 76ers. The 76ers and Jazz seem to be trending in completely opposite directions. While the Jazz are trying to find their past identity built on continuity, defense and execution, the 76ers have pushed all their chips to the center of the table with their acquisition of Jimmy Butler.
Tonight will be Jimmy Butler’s Philadelphia introduction. This couldn’t be coming at a worse time as Utah looks like a team that needs a break. Utah’s schedule isn’t going to wait up for a team that can’t figure out who they are.
Utah is going to have to guard a very interesting lineup tonight as Philly will be throwing out a lineup without a point guard (excluding Ben Simmons). That lineup will be JJ Redick, Wilson Chandler, Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid. The 76ers have leaned heavily into the modern era of basketball.
Meanwhile Utah has leaned hard into continuity. It’s unknown whether Quin Snyder will use this game as an opportunity to test Utah with a different lineup. Trotting out the struggling Ricky Rubio to guard JJ Redick and Derrick Favors to guard Ben Simmons feels like suicide. Meanwhile, moving Jae Crowder and someone else to the starting lineup might not be of much help to a Utah Jazz team that could still be reeling from the effects of the brutal loss against Dallas.
Philadelphia before the Jimmy Butler trade had found themselves in a similar situation as Utah. They had an average offense and average defense. Their point guard Markelle Fultz was behind the developmental curve because of his past injuries and struggling jump shot. Dario Saric was in a shooting slump. Now in their places is JJ Redick and Jimmy Butler.
Rudy Gobert will have his work cut out for him as he’ll have to deal with Joel Embiid one on one with little help as the 76ers have finally given the All Star center some proper floor spacers.
Utah is coming into this game with a bottom 10 offense and bottom 10 defense. Zach Lowe on his podcast yesterday pointed out that Utah’s woes may be exaggerated as Utah is forcing the right shots, but their opponents are just hitting a higher percentage than expected. If Utah can just push through and trust their defense, the regression to the mean might hide their current sins.
But tonight the Utah Jazz’s current struggles might be prominently displayed more than a Scarlet Letter on their warm up jackets.
Ricky Rubio is averaging career lows in almost every single statistical category.
The Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert pairing just doesn’t work and there is enough sample size to know this.
Dante Exum hasn’t made the leap that many had hoped.
Grayson Allen does not look ready for any minutes.
Royce O’Neale looks like he has regressed.
Utah’s defense is allowing a higher percentage at the rim and beyond the three point line.
Utah’s offense can’t capitalize on open looks.
It is with that backdrop that Utah starts the toughest part of their road trip which will include stops in Philadelphia, Boston, and Indiana. Utah will be playing against a hyped up 76ers squad eager to show that their acquisition of Jimmy Butler has elevated them to the upper crust of the Eastern Conference.
When: 5:00 p.m. MT, Friday Nov. 16
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
TV: AT&T SportsNet, NBA League Pass
Radio: 1280AM/97.5 FM
Raul Neto - Rehab - OUT
Zhaire Smith - Foot - OUT
Justin Patton - Foot - OUT
What to watch for
How does Quin Snyder counter Philadelphia’s all wing lineup?
The modern NBA has arrived. Philadelphia’s starting lineup is a fever pitched 7 seconds or less dream. It features shooters and wing players who are playmakers and can spread the floor. The only non shooter now is Ben Simmons who is a slashing nightmare and is a gifted passer.
Utah’s starting lineup has had a woeful start to the year. What had been one of the best lineups in the NBA post All Star break last year looks like time has passed it by. Will Quin Snyder dare not change a thing and force Favors to guard Simmons or Chandler? Or will he finally relent and insert Jae Crowder into the starting lineup.
Then there’s the elephant in the room named Ricky Rubio.
What to do with a struggling point guard?
Ricky Rubio—when he was right—was an absolute beast for Utah. It’s for that reason Ricky Rubio’s leash has been so long. One only look at Denver who sat Jamal Murray on the bench for only 5 games of shooting ~35% from the field to wonder how in the world Rubio has the goodwill to stay in the starting lineup.
Rubio’s gift of being a starter is most likely from the fact that Exum hasn’t been able to capitalize recently in any game on the starter’s woeful play and Rubio being such a key cog last year.
Unfortunately, while Utah keeps pressing on with Rubio like the lost boys searching for young Peter Pan in an old man’s body, Rubio is getting run off the floor. Quin Snyder hasn’t been left with any replacement either. Burks has somewhat regressed to old Burks the last few games. Exum is still potential incarnate. Raul Neto is still rehabbing. Barring a very surprising trade, Utah is in it for the long haul with Rubio unless Quin finally throws in the towel and goes with long term potential (Exum) over regressing back to the mean (Rubio).
How did the last loss affect Utah?
While members of the Jazz did their best “It’s just one game” cliche the past 48 hours, it didn’t feel like just one game. You don’t just get blasted by a lottery team and everything goes on without a hiccup. For many this game felt like the Atlanta game of last year, but the improved Western Conference just moved the date up.
Fairly or unfairly, the enthusiasm for Utah’s season could very well be gauged by the rest of their road trip.
The sinking offense has been forcing Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell to carry even more of the load. Joe Ingles is picking up some of the slack, but is definitely operating FAR outside his designated role. Utah needs someone—anyone—to play to their expected abilities outside of Utah’s dependable core of Mitchell, Ingles, and Gobert. If this game is yet another disappointing and lethargic loss, the fan base of Utah will get restless. Even more so, the front office of Utah might start reaching for the rolodex.