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.”  

Sixers-Jazz observations: Road trip opens with 5th straight win

Sixers-Jazz observations: Road trip opens with 5th straight win

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SALT LAKE CITY – Winning on the road is becoming a habit for the Sixers this season.

Buoyed by a season-high 25 points from Dario Saric and 20 points from JJ Redick, the Sixers knocked off the Utah Jazz 104-97 on Tuesday night. The Sixers shot 12 of 27 from three-point range and out-rebounded the Jazz 56-45.

It helped the Sixers snap a nine-game losing streak in the series and a 12-game road losing streak to Utah. They notched their first win in Salt Lake City since 2005.

The Jazz shot just 30.3 percent from the field and trailed by double digits through much of the game. They made runs to close out each half, pulling within two at halftime and cutting the Sixers' lead to 100-97 on a layup from Rudy Gobert with 10.2 seconds left. Ben Simmons and Saric each hit a pair of free throws in the final seconds to seal the win.

• Simmons continues to pepper the stat sheet with all sorts of impressive numbers. He tallied 16 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks for the Sixers on Tuesday night. It marked the seventh double-double for Simmons this season. That's the most for an NBA rookie through 10 games since Shaquille O' Neal opened his NBA career with 11 straight double-doubles in the 1992-93 season.

• Robert Covington did damage from the perimeter as usual, but he was also active on the boards in helping the Sixers finish with a 56-45 edge on the glass over the Jazz. Covington tallied a season-high 12 rebounds to go along with 14 points. It is his first double-double of the season.

• The Jazz proved lifeless on offense through much of the first quarter to open the door for the Sixers to carve out an early double-digit lead. Utah shot just 23.8 percent from the field and made only five total field goals. Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio each missed five shot attempts in the quarter.

• A tough second quarter erased a double-digit lead for the Sixers. Utah went on a 13-0 run and tied it at 41-41 on a pair of free throws from Raul Neto. A 5½-minute scoring drought was the biggest culprit for the Sixers. They missed 11 straight shots and committed a pair of turnovers in that stretch.

• Rookie guard Mitchell started the second half in place of Rodney Hood after Hood started the game at two guard for the Jazz. Mitchell could make a permanent move to the starting lineup soon with how he's playing off the bench. He totaled 135 points in Utah's first 10 games, becoming just the second rookie to achieve that feat for the Jazz.

• Is there anyone for the Sixers who can provide instant offense from the perimeter the way Redick does? Redick came out on fire in the third quarter. He hit three three-pointers in the first five minutes to help the Sixers push their lead to 15 points. Redick scored 13 of his 20 points in the quarter.

• Saric also proved to be fearless from the perimeter. The second-year forward sank a career-high five three-pointers en route to a season-high 25 points and also had 10 rebounds to earn his first double-double of 2017-18. He averaged just 8.2 points on 36.4 percent shooting in the Sixers' first nine games.

• With Joel Embiid sitting out for “load management,” Richaun Holmes got the start at center. Holmes tallied six points and five rebounds in 15 minutes against the Jazz. It is just the second game back in the lineup for Holmes after he missed eight games with a wrist injury. He looked sharp and played aggressive during the first quarter, scoring on a dunk and a layup to help the Sixers carve out an early 26-10 lead.

• In addition to Embiid, Jerryd Bayless (left wrist contusion) and Markelle Fultz (right shoulder soreness/scapular muscle imbalance) were sidelined for the Sixers. Joe Johnson (right wrist tendon instability) and Dante Exum (left shoulder surgery) were the only players out for the Jazz.

• Sixers coach Brett Brown paid tribute to Roy Halladay before the game, calling him an incredible worker and fierce competitor. “Our organization respects the legacy that he has left behind,” Brown said. Halladay died in a plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday.

5 observations from Sixers' win over Spurs in Utah Jazz Summer League

5 observations from Sixers' win over Spurs in Utah Jazz Summer League

SALT LAKE CITY – Two close losses did not turn into a third one for the Sixers. They closed out their stint in the Utah Jazz Summer League on a satisfying note, rallying in the fourth quarter to beat the San Antonio Spurs 94-86 (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers came out on top without top pick Markelle Fultz in the lineup. Fultz did not start or play because the coaching staff decided to rest him ahead of the Las Vegas Summer League this weekend. In Fultz's absence, the Sixers' second unit stepped up to the plate and carried their team to victory.

Led by 18 points from Isaiah Miles, the Sixers finished with 66 bench points. Four of the six players who came off the bench scored in double figures including Jonah Bolden (16), Brandon Austin (15) and Isaiah Briscoe (10). With the spark they provided, the Sixers surged past the Spurs midway through the fourth quarter and never looked back.

Here are five other observations from Thursday's game:

• Once Furkan Korkmaz fully gets his legs under him, the Turkish rookie has the potential to impact a game across the board. Korkmaz did a little bit of everything against the Spurs on Thursday (see story). He stole the ball. He set up teammates for easy baskets with crisp passing. Most importantly, he helped key the decisive 11-0 fourth quarter run that put the Sixers ahead for good with a timely three pointer.

• After suffering a fourth-quarter collapse against the Celtics, the Sixers showed mental toughness in the fourth quarter both against the Jazz and the Spurs. They used a rally to threaten Utah in the final minute and then finished off a rally against San Antonio. This could bode well in tight games in Las Vegas.

• Bryn Forbes has the makings of being a dangerous shooter for San Antonio. Forbes scorched the nets from the perimeter in a win over the Celtics on Wednesday. The Sixers did a good job of holding him in check. Forbes did finish with 21 points, but he went just 3 of 10 from outside.

• The Sixers did a good job of getting out in transition, largely because of their success with forcing turnovers. They finished with 15 fastbreak points while limiting the Spurs to just six points in transition.

• Offensive rebounding is a strength for this Sixers' summer league squad. The Sixers corralled 10 offensive boards and finished with 16 second-chance points. It marked the second straight night they held an advantage over their opponent in these categories.