76ers

Sixers top Jazz to open road trip with 5th straight win

Sixers top Jazz to open road trip with 5th straight win

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SALT LAKE CITY – Figuring out how to guard Ben Simmons is a puzzle many NBA teams can't solve. The Sixers’ rookie keeps finding ways to contribute and impact a game – even when his shot isn't falling.

Simmons offered his latest evidence of that ability in helping the Sixers claim their fifth consecutive victory with a 104-97 win over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night (see observations). He peppered the stat sheet with all sorts of impact stats as usual – 16 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks.

For Simmons, it is part of a continued quest for excellence. He wants to build a reputation as a winner, plain and simple. And he'll do everything to bring his team along with him.

“I'm not happy with losing,” Simmons said. “I feel like that defines me and that's just the way the game is. People are defined by how many rings they have. For me, I just want to win and while I'm in the league be one of those guys that's a winner.”

Simmons isn't just winning, he's elevating his game to a whole new level. He notched his seventh double-double in 10 career NBA games, becoming the first NBA rookie to have that many double-doubles in their first 10 games since Shaquille O' Neal did it 11 straight times to start the 1992-93 season.

Figuring out how to contain Simmons on either end of the court is a little like playing with fire. One way or another, teams end up being burned. Still, teams have to account for what he can do to influence a game as a 6-foot-10 point guard with loads of athleticism, an incredible wingspan and unmatched passing abilities for a big man.

“He's unique,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “I think everyone game plans against him, in one way or another, because he is the engine.”

One area where Simmons made his greatest impact against Utah came on the defensive glass. Simmons posted a career-high 12 defensive rebounds. It allowed him to get out and push the ball and set up some quick shots in transition.

The Sixers capitalized. As a team, they shot 12 of 27 (44.4 percent) from the perimeter. Dario Saric led the way with a career-high five three-pointers – part of his season-high 25 points. JJ Redick and Robert Covington each hit three three-pointers apiece. They finished with 20 points and 14 points, respectively.

When Simmons can rebound and push the ball like he did against the Jazz, the Sixers become a team that's almost impossible to guard.

“You’ve got to be ready to run when you play with Ben,” forward/center Richaun Holmes said. “It's an exciting way to play.”

Sixers coach Brett Brown said that Simmons grew tremendously after having the NBA equivalent of a redshirt year when he sat out last season with an injury. It allowed Simmons to watch the game and learn about it from a different perspective. Brown felt like it opened the door for him to get himself a little more acclimated to the pro game before diving in with both feet.

“None of us can dismiss the benefit that Ben Simmons had of effectively being a redshirt and taking it all in and not necessarily in real time,” Brown said. “The NBA is so unforgiving.”

If Simmons could turn back the clock, he would have erased the injury that cost him an entire season. Now, in hindsight, he can see where it helped him learn and grow. The biggest thing it taught him is learning how to be patient and pick his battles.

Now that he's on the court, he's going full speed and progressing at a rate that surprises even the coaches that worked with him from Day 1.

“I think it definitely helps, but you can't actually compare it to playing,” Simmons said. “I think I've learned more just being on the court and actually playing and seeing different teams and sets than watching. But it did pay off to be able to watch and learn the game.”  

Joel Embiid questionable vs. Jazz with left knee soreness

Joel Embiid questionable vs. Jazz with left knee soreness

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Joel Embiid is questionable for the Sixers' Monday's matchup against the Jazz but the big man expects to play. 

Embiid will be a game-time decision because of left knee soreness. He is experiencing tightness and will go through pregame warmups to see how he reacts. After that, the call will up be up to him. 

"My whole body's a little bit sore, but I think I should be playing tonight," Embiid said. "If I feel good, I'll play. It's not on them (the Sixers). I think it's more on me."

Embiid took three-point shots and free throws after shootaround Monday. He did not attribute the discomfort to one play in particular. He took a tough spill Saturday against the Warriors but said that wasn't the specific cause.

"Maybe just a little bit because I landed on both of my knees," Embiid said. "It wasn't a little bit painful but it's nothing to be worried about." 

Embiid said his questionable status was not because of needing a day to rest. Embiid played 33 minutes Saturday. In fact, he said he was going to be "set free, basically" in terms of his minutes following that game. 

Embiid shot "a little bit" at Sunday's practice and did not go through shootaround Monday, something he has been doing to make keep his body ready for the game itself. 

"There's still a schedule in place," Embiid said. "I'm not cleared for back-to-backs yet. I expect at some point this season to be playing back-to-backs. You've just got to follow the plan and see how my body reacts. But it's been going well so far." 

Embiid has sat out twice this season, the last time being against the Jazz in Salt Lake City. The Sixers won that game, 104-97. 

The Sixers know what they have to do if Embiid cannot play. Dario Saric scored 25 points and JJ Redick added 20 in the Sixers' victory over the Jazz. Richaun Holmes started that night in place of Embiid, but he also is questionable because of gastroenteritis. Expect Amir Johnson, who did not play against the Warriors, to see more minutes if neither big can play. 

"In that case [without Embiid], we need to share the ball, we need to move a lot, we need to play a little bit faster," Saric said. "Try to attack Utah in the fast break because they are a really good defensive team of the half court." 

Jerryd Bayless is cleared to return after missing the last six games because of a left wrist injury. Justin Anderson (left leg) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) are out. 

Markelle Fultz progressing, but not ready to return to Sixers yet

Markelle Fultz progressing, but not ready to return to Sixers yet

Updated: 2:45 p.m.

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Markelle Fultz isn't cleared to play just yet.

The Sixers rookie was reevaluated Sunday for right shoulder soreness and scapular muscle imbalance and will be reevaluated again in approximately 2-3 weeks, the team announced. 

His return date will be based on how he handles training and practices. An examination by Dr. Ben Kibler, Medical Director of the Shoulder Center of Kentucky at the Lexington Clinic, showed Fultz's soreness and muscle balance is improving. Fultz met with Kibler on Oct. 29 and has seen multiple shoulder specialists. 

The rehab plan is for Fultz to continue with physiotherapy treatment.

"Just the fact we expect to get back into full basketball activity soon," Brett Brown said after practice Sunday, "I don't know the exact timeframe of that, but the news is good in relation to the improvement of his shoulder, enough for us to put out a press release saying what I just said and look forward to bringing him into the team and playing basketball again."

The No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft has appeared in only four games this season, averaging 6.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists off the bench. He has been battling the shoulder discomfort since training camp, and his shot was visibly affected by it.

Fultz has been traveling with the Sixers. He is staying engaged with the team during his own pregame warmups, assisting with rebounding after practices and staying incorporated with teammates off the court. 

Bayless to return
The Sixers anticipate getting one player back from injury Monday.

Brown expects Jerryd Bayless (left wrist) will play against the Jazz. Bayless went through practice Sunday. Brown looks forward to having Bayless' veteran experience, playmaking, and on-ball defense back in the mix. Bayless has missed the last six games and doesn't plan to have any minute restrictions on his return. 

"It's feeling OK," Bayless said of his wrist. "It's feeling like it's ready to go. I'm excited to play and be back out there." 

Justin Anderson (left leg) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) remain sidelined. As a result of all the injuries, guards T.J. McConnell and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot have seen a bump in minutes.