The Utah Jazz (20-13) defeated the Philadelphia 76ers (7-24) tonight by the score of 100-83. This is really not the final score we expected from watching the first three quarters of this game. Philly was down a few key players, while Utah was the healthiest they had been all season . . . but early on and often we saw which team played with more heart. (Hint: It was the team that from a city that has a statue to Rocky Balboa in it.)
While Philly was short-handed (missing starters: Jerryd Bayless, Gerald Henderson, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid; and deep bench bigman Richaun Holmes) Utah got a huge lift from returning starter George Hill. (Only 6th man Alec Burks was injured for this one.) The final score, a near 20 point victor, is what was expected. But the Sixers really made the Jazz work for it.
This was my 6th Sixers game that I’ve watched this season and I don’t think that makes me an expert. But I didn’t expect them to roll over. They did not. Capitalizing on the Jazz’ sloppy play, and their starters inexperience with one another (only 12 minutes in one game before tonight), Philly stuck with their offense and did not back down. They went on a 10-0 run to cap off the first quarter — and lead there 24-22. And they stood toe-to-toe against Utah’s starters when they returned in the second, drawing equal there 27-27.
Quin Snyder wasn’t happy with how his team was playing and missing out on 50/50 balls. The Jazz were also missing nearly half of all their free throws, a problem tonight because Philly sent them to the line instead of giving them layups and dunks (for the most part). So Utah would roar back in the third, right? Not exactly, as Ersan Ilyasova, Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, and Dario Saric would keep attacking the paint and scoring. Yeah, Philly got 42 points in the paint in this game and found ways to finesse their way around Rudy Gobert, or make the extra pass to get a good score on Trey Lyles or Derrick Favors. Philly won the third quarter 23-21.
So, yeah. The Jazz were down after three to a seven win team that was trying harder than them. Philly was up by four without getting to the FT line (fewer than 10 FTA in this game), or without making any threes (just 6 in the game, shooting 25% overall). That’s a bad look.
The Jazz responded by taking control of the fourth with a George Hill, Rodney Hood, Joe Johnson, Trey Lyles, and Derrick Favors lineup that spaced the floor and blocked shots on defense. Utah would roll to a 30-9 fourth quarter, and ultimately got the 100-83 win.
George Hill was the engine, making smart moves with and without the ball on offense. He never stops moving, and controlling / pulling the defense with him. This leads to defensive overplays and wider open shots for his teammates. He also somehow managed to fight for a lot of offensive rebounds and just be where he needed to be. He, in his first game back since Thanksgiving, finished with 21 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 2 threes, and 1 block. In +/- he was +31 in 29 minutes of action. He shot 8/10 from the field and the team looks great when he’s on the court.
Gordon Hayward had another 20 point game, but didn’t shoot well (6/14), though he did go 3/6 from deep. He didn’t have to do so much with Hill directing things. Rodney Hood bounced back from his 0-for-everything games and shot 7/11, knocking down four threes on his way to 20 points as well.
With the bigs we had a mixed bag. Derrick Favors shot 1/7, but finished with 12 rebounds. Trey Lyes came off the bench and finished with 11 points, hitting 3 threes, with 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist, 1 block, and some nice defense in the fourth quarter. Rudy Gobert’s double double streak ended, but he finished with 9 points (3/11 form the FTA, so there’s where he lost it), 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals and some massive facials.
As a team, Utah shot .479 / .577 / .536. It would have been an easier game if they were making their freebies. Still they managed a 111.0 ORTG and 92.1 DRTG in this game. Not too shabby. Another win is good. Utah will have a chance to make it 21 wins on the season with their next game, Saturday, hosting the Phoenix Suns.