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Utah Jazz almost steals a game in Philadelphia but fall short

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Utah loses by TKO.

Utah Jazz v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Utah Jazz lost a game they had every right to lose, but it feels worse because they almost stole it. Utah’s 113-107 loss to the Philadelphia stings more because they had a chance with 2 minutes remaining to sneak out of Philly with a win despite playing sloppy defense, missing 16 free throws, shooting 18% from three, and losing the rebound battle. The silver lining to this game will be that Utah played much better against a much better opponent.

Utah had to claw their way back into this game due to an atrocious first quarter as the Philadelphia 76ers led by as many as 16 points. Utah shaved away the lead and by the end of the 3rd quarter they had taken the lead and made this thing a game. Unfortunately, the same mistakes that dug them such a deep hole in the 1st quarter reared their ugly head in the final minutes.

Ricky Rubio and Jae Crowder got caught on a miscommunication with Ben Simmons handling the ball on the perimeter. Neither one communicated the screen nor the switch which ended with Jae Crowder being screened out of the play by his own man, Ricky Rubio. The play allowed Ben Simmons a wide open layup.

Next possession for the 76ers after that, Rudy Gobert didn’t see Joe Ingles getting hit by a screen and didn’t switch on Ingles’ man careening toward the paint. Gobert stayed on Embiid and the 76ers once again got another easy basket in crunch time.

This game was more about Jimmy Butler. This was his first game at home in front of his own fans and he did not disappoint. He had an efficient 28 points on 12 of 15 shooting with 3 rebounds and 7 assists. He was a pest on the defensive end.

The big battle between Rudy Gobert and Joel Embiid really just fizzled as referees didn’t let the big men play. Boo to the freedom of movement. Let these giants battle it out. Rudy Gobert finished with a very un-Rudy-like +/- of -26 while Embiid struggled through foul trouble and finished 7 of 20 from the floor with 3 blocks (all of which seemed like they were blocking Donovan). He did get to the line for 9 FTAs.

When looking for silver linings, one not look far from Derrick Favors. Favors was the big reason Utah clawed their way back into this game. He was 5 of 5 from the field with 6 rebounds and a +/- of +11.

Add in Dante Exum and Thabo Sefolosha as well. Dante Exum had 7 points on 3 of 7 shoting with 2 rebounds and 4 assists. He put pressure on the defense and got his team good looks. He also played amazing defense like he usually does.

Thabo Sefolosha had 2 points and 6 rebounds, but his bigger contribution came on the defensive end. Lineups where he was on the court just did better. This was the first time since Sefolosha’s injury that you could visibly see a positive impact with him just being on the floor.

Donovan Mitchell giveth and he taketh away. He was 13 of 35 on the floor tonight while going 1 of 11. Most of those three point shots weren’t exactly the best looks. He also go to the line for 7 free throws where he missed three. While those threes weren’t the looks you want, the rest of his game looked great. More so, in the third quarter he went 5 of 9 from the field and really took over the offense for Utah. Is rhythm outside should return because there’s sample size from last year that says it will.

For those saying he shouldn’t be taking those shots ... the hard question they have to answer is who on this Jazz team would they rather take them? Joe Ingles can’t get the separation off the dribble that Donovan can and is best served spacing the floor. You don’t want Jae Crowder taking those attempts. And you certainly don’t want Ricky Rubio taking those attempts.

Which brings us to the conundrum of Ricky Rubio.

[Insert we know how amazing and nice a guy Rubio is off the court here]

With that said, Ricky Rubio has turned into Quin Snyder’s Carlos Peña. If Rubio is here, Quin is going to stick with his guy no matter the possible gains if there’s a switch. Rubio has now played 91 total games in his career with Utah. For most of the games before his jump to excellent play last season in January, he has played below average basketball. So far this season he is averaging a career low in FG%, career low in 3P%, career high in turnovers, career high in fouls, career low in rebounds, and career low in steals.

In tonight’s game, he was once again struggling on defense, making questionable turnovers and decisions on offense, and missing five free throws which is supposed to be his forte. Rubio is in his 8th season and you’d think he wouldn’t be declining as he’s supposed to be in his prime, but he’s been playing professional ball since he was 15. Add up all his minutes in professional leagues and he’s sitting at 19,018 total minutes of professional basketball at age 28. Father time might be catching up to Rubio differently.

It stands to question if Utah’s going to get similar production out of Rubio as they would Exum, why not go with the player that has the clear upside? Why not go with the player that has physical tools that most players dream of? Why not go with the only damn player that seems capable of throwing a lob to your 7 footer for the easy dunk?

Utah’s expectations of getting home court in the playoffs are sinking and now it’s becoming a question if Utah can get its act together and not get itself in too much of a hole before the schedule starts easing up.

Utah’s next game is tomorrow night in Boston against the Celtics. The Celtics went into overtime so they may just be just as exhausted as Utah. We’ll also see how Utah does against a Boston team with Kyrie Irving rather than without him.

Takeaways & Notes

Utah is in the pits. While they had an improved game, losing against Dallas was the game they needed to win on a difficult stretch. Losing what should be easy games like that make these tough losses hurt even more.

Utah’s terrible start dug them in a hole they couldn’t get out of. Quin didn’t flinch when faced with the 76ers all wing and Embiid lineup and played Favors with Gobert. It wasn’t pretty and never should have happened. The days of imposing your will on a team with size at the four are over. The quicker Utah can get with the program, the sooner Utah can stop playing from behind every damn game.

Markelle Fultz’s free throw technique is just flat weird. If there’s a silver lining in this game, it’s Utah’s point guards don’t do this at the free throw line:

Jae Crowder even mocked it.