The Philadelphia 76ers (7-23) face off against the Utah Jazz (19-13) tonight at the Vivint Smart Home Arena. Unfortunately, the 76ers are resting big man Joel Embiid and we won’t get to see the Gobert/Embiid matchup that is sure to be fun for several years. That being said, there are still several things to watch for tonight. Here they are:
1 - The Utah Jazz to honor late former BYU football coach, Lavell Edwards
Sports lost a legend today as Lavell Edwards passed away at age 86 and the Jazz will honor him at tonight’s game. If you are a sports fan in Utah, you can’t turn on the radio or watch local sports news without hearing about the Utah Jazz, University of Utah football, and BYU football whether you want to or not. Those are the big 3. And you can’t talk about BYU football without acknowledging Edwards, who put BYU and Provo, Utah on the map. Here are some of the tweets from those within the Jazz organization:
BYU Coach LaVell Edwards, a true legend who touched many and won at life. We look forward to honoring him at the Jazz game tonight.— Steve Starks (@StevenStarks) December 29, 2016
Lavell Edwards has to be the greatest sports icon in Utah. The magnitude of winning. The length of time. The importance of BYU to state— David Locke (@Lockedonsports) December 29, 2016
LaVell Edwards ..a coaching icon, and a man of class on and off the field. I am one sad man .— Craig Bolerjack (@BuckleUpBoler) December 29, 2016
The Utah Jazz are one of the things that bring BYU fans and Utah fans together. It’s nice that the Jazz are doing something to honor this Utah sports legend. RIP Lavell.
2 - George Hill is back!
Well, he’s probably back. He is listed as questionable but it is being reported by ESPN’s Tim MacMahon that he should play barring any setbacks. This is big news. Also, Tony Jones of the Salt Lake tribune has reported that if he plays, there likely will not be any minutes restrictions. Here is the response when asked if there would be a limit on minutes:
Don't think so I've been told that when he's back, he's back https://t.co/vBimTLlUq0— Tony Jones (@tribjazz) December 29, 2016
Hill has been out for the previous 13 games due to a sprained big toe and also missed 8 games in November with a sprained thumb. To put it simply: the Jazz are a much better team with Hill on the floor. He takes care of the ball (1.4 turnovers per game), takes the scoring load off of Hayward (Hill is averaging exactly 20 points per game), and defends at an elite level. The Jazz are 8-3 when Hill plays and just 11-10 when he has been out.
3 - Gobert versus
Normally, watching Okafor wouldn’t be something to get too excited about but I’m interested to see if he comes out with a little more fire against Gobert tonight. The social media people for the Jazz ribbed the 76ers for sitting Embiid (rest) tonight. Take a look at the exchange, it’s awesome (there are a few tweets in here but it’s worth it):
.@Sixers Looking forward to the matchup tonight! Oh wait...— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) December 29, 2016
I love that the Jazz social media team got involved in this. I don’t think they would do this to the Warriors but it’s still fun. Let’s see if Okafor uses it as a little extra motivation against Gobert tonight.
4 - Will we see all-star-level performances from Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward tonight?
All-star voting is in full swing and both Gobert and Hayward are playing like they want to go to New Orleans in February. Hayward dropped 31 against the Lakers on Tuesday and Gobert made a huge play at the end of that game to contribute to the win. Even with Hill back tonight these two should dominate against the worst team in the league. You can see how dominant these two have been in this fun illustration:
Utah Jazz TPA breakdown, in which Rudy Gobert does everything in his power to break the defensive scale: pic.twitter.com/pFvxJhs2fi— NBA Math (@NBA_Math) December 28, 2016
5 - Jazz need to win this game.
They don’t need to win this game as in it’s a must-win game and their season is ruined without a win. But, if you are a 50 win team, this is a game that you win at home. Yes, trap games exist but this doesn’t feel like one. The Jazz have this game and then another game at home against the Phoenix Suns on New Year’s eve before they head out on a 5 game road trip to start 2017. It would be nice to head out on the road with a little momentum with 3 consecutive wins. Here’s what the last few and the next few games look like: