Despite the Jazz having a winning record and the 76ers having a losing record (and then some) there are some similarities between the two clubs. Both started the year battled and bruised, with key injuries to key people. Simmons is out for Philadelphia, for instance, as well as Nerlens Noel, Jerryd Bayless, and Hollis Thompson (who is “probable”). Burks is still out for Utah, which saw Gordon Hayward return just yesterday. Back-up PF Boris Diaw is still a good week (or two) away from returning.
Also, both teams are having their share of minute restrictions this year. For Philly, both Embiid and Okafor have had a cap on their playing time this year, and Jazz big man Derrick Favors also isn’t at max capacity just yet.
Both teams, too, are having something to smile about this year. The Jazz, for instance, are just coming off a come-from-behind win in New York with Hayward back in the line-up.
Jazz point guard George Hill: "We didn't want to lose. We know that feeling. I told the guys howe we bounce back will define who we are."— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) November 6, 2016
The play of George Hill has been everything the Jazz could’ve asked for (and then some), and Rudy Gobert sure isn’t mailing it in after securing that big contract. I mean, THAT dunk, if you didn’t get out of your seat for that one then maybe modern day basketball isn’t the sport you should be watching.
The city of Philadelphia, too, is having something to smile about. More specifically, they have an Embiid to smile about. The guy is awesome. He can hit the outside shot (all the way out to three-point land even), but especially his light-footedness in combination with that length is a joy to behold. Nimble, and with a certain elegance, the guy is averaging almost 19 points in 22 minutes of (restricted) play. And with style, petite, with style. Also, Sergio Rodriguez is racking up some beautiful assists, and their last game was a solely moral victory against the Cavaliers, ending up on the wrong side by a measly point. Despite this.
EMBIID JUST PINNED LEBRON THIS IS NOT A DRILL https://t.co/bYee2u3lPs— Hoops Reference (@RTHoopsTalk) November 5, 2016
So are the Jazz going to be their first victim of the year? The Jazz performed a matinee show in NY just the other day, so tired legs may be a culprit to difficult to overcome. However, the Jazz have a better squad around their stars, so that might just be a deciding factor today.
Marquee Match-Up: Okafor versus the Utah bench big
Sure, Gobert battling Embiid is going to be the thrilla in the philla, but maybe the key thing is going to be containing Okafor off the bench. On a minutes restriction, he is getting his play time with the B squad, and I’m not sure if Lyles and Withey are going to be able to keep this talented young man from carrying the home team during Embiid’s stretch on the bench.
X-Factor: Can Hayward get his rhythm right?
Hayward said hello to the season last night, but especially in the early goings his shot was still off. Sure, he contributed in other ways (think 14-for-14 free throws, for example), but if that was the warm-up, and if today is going to be the day that it’s all coming back to him now, then that might be the thing that tips the scale. Pre-season Hayward made it look easy, and how much of a run-up will he require to make it look easy once more.
Prediction: Slowing it down and D’ing it up will eventually prove too much for the 76ers. Jazz - 96 - Philadelphia 91