rudy gobert

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.

Key matchups for Sixers' 5-game road trip

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USA Today Images/AP Images

Key matchups for Sixers' 5-game road trip

The Sixers are riding high at the moment.

They rallied last Friday for a 121-110 win over the Indiana Pacers at the Wells Fargo Center. It marked the Sixers’ fourth straight win, the first time they have accomplished that feat since a stretch from Dec. 29, 2013 to Jan. 4, 2014.

The victory also pushed the Sixers’ record to 5-4. That means they are above .500 for the first time since Nov. 13, 2013.

Now comes a real test. The Sixers open up a difficult five-game road trip on Tuesday night against the Utah Jazz.

How they handle this stretch could go a long way toward determining the Sixers’ standing around the league.

With that said, let’s break down a key matchup that might help determine the outcome of each game.

Sixers-Jazz (Backup centers vs. Rudy Gobert)
You had to know it was coming. You just didn’t know when.

Joel Embiid was ruled out for Tuesday’s clash in Salt Lake City for what was deemed “load management.” The big man has played in eight of the Sixers’ nine games to this point, and with a lengthy road trip on tap, he was always likely to sit out at least once.

That means the Sixers’ backup bigs such Amir Johnson and Richaun Holmes (does Jahlil Okafor even count at this point?) will have to deal with the forceful Rudy Gobert. Gobert is averaging 13.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and a league-leading 2.5 blocks per game this season. 

About the only thing the Sixers have going for them in this instance is that the Jazz’s balanced attack allows for Gobert to have a usage rate of only 17.1 percent.

Either way, good luck climbing “The Stifle Tower” without Embiid.

Sixers-Kings (T.J. McConnell vs. De’Aaron Fox)
This spot would have been reserved for a battle of lottery selections with Markelle Fultz lining up against the speedster Fox. However, the No. 1 overall pick is still sidelined with a shoulder injury.

That doesn’t mean a battle between McConnell and Fox should be any less intriguing. 

Fox has proven to be a solid contributor early on. The No. 5 overall pick leads the Kings in points (12.7) and assists (5.0). He also averages 3.7 boards a night. Despite his sagging shooting percentages (41.2 from the field and 27.3 from three-point range), the lightning-quick lefty has provided a serious spark off the bench.

McConnell will certainly be accepting of the challenge as he relishes being a stopper on defense. He has already locked horns this season with superstars John Wall, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, so Fox will be just another high-profile name on the log.

Sixers-Warriors (Ben Simmons vs. Kevin Durant)
Ordinarily, the point guard Simmons would be matched up on is two-time league MVP Stephen Curry. But shortly into his NBA career, Simmons has proven to be anything but ordinary.

The rookie is coming off his second triple-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in the Sixers’ win over the Pacers. He also contributed three blocks and two steals.

While Simmons’ offensive ability is not at all in question, his defense will be put to the test against Durant. The supreme scorer has looked even more lethal coming off his first NBA championship. 

Durant is still pouring in the points with 25.2 a game. However, it’s his shooting percentages that have really set him apart to this point in the 2017-18 campaign. He entered Monday shooting career highs from the field (54.2 percent) and three-point range (49.2 percent).

Simmons will likely switch with Robert Covington throughout the game guarding Durant, but that would potentially mean he’ll just shift to Klay Thompson. Pick your poison.

Sixers-Clippers (Dario Saric vs. Blake Griffin)
Saric has started to find his footing after a bumpy start to the season.

But next Monday he’ll get a close look at arguably the best power forward playing the game right now.

After Chris Paul’s departure for the Houston Rockets, Griffin has completely taken over the offensive load for the Rockets. The veteran is averaging 23.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists. More importantly, his increased offensive load hasn’t affected his efficiency as Griffin is scoring at a 49.3 percent clip from the field and a career-best 42.2 percent clip from long range.

The Clippers have cooled off (5-4) after winning their first four games to start the season. Still, Griffin is a legit early-season MVP candidate, and Saric better be prepared or he could find himself on one of those infamous posters.

Sixers-Lakers (Everyone vs. Lonzo Ball)
This one doesn’t need much setup. You all know the deal by now.

It started throughout the pre-draft process when LaVar Ball continually made it known that he wanted his son to play for the Lakers. After the storied franchise selected the UCLA product at No. 2, the elder Ball proclaimed on draft night that his son would also take the team to the playoffs. 

That evoked a tweet of “crazy pills” from Simmons, as well as Embiid asking Simmons to dunk on Lonzo Ball so hard that his dad would have to come save him (see story).

The tweets only stoked the flames as LaVar Ball proceeded to say the Sixers need to get off Twitter and get in the gym. That didn’t sit too kindly with Embiid, who bluntly said on July 4, “F--- LaVar Ball” in a video, which drew a fine from the league (see story).

Things between the Sixers and the Ball family have pretty much calmed down since that point (unless you’ve checked out the Twitter account of Simmons’ sister Olivia in the recent past).

But expect the Sixers to try to go at Lonzo early and often in that game, with LaVar likely sitting courtside for a clear view of the action.

NBA Playoffs: Jazz cruise past Clippers in Game 7; will play Warriors in semis

NBA Playoffs: Jazz cruise past Clippers in Game 7; will play Warriors in semis

LOS ANGELES -- Gordon Hayward scored 26 points and the Utah Jazz easily eliminated the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday with a 104-91 victory, winning the first-round playoff series 4-3.

George Hill and Derrick Favors added 17 points apiece in Utah's first postseason victory since 2010.

The Jazz advanced to face top-seeded Golden State in the Western Conference semifinals. The Warriors swept Portland 4-0 and have been waiting since Wednesday to find out their next opponent.

Game 1 is Tuesday in Oakland.

The Clippers' DeAndre Jordan had 24 points and 17 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the series. Jamal Crawford added 20 points off the bench.

Chris Paul had 13 points for the Clippers, who were sent packing in the first round for the second straight year (see full recap).

Isaiah Thomas leads Celtics over Wizards in Game 1
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 33 points and nine assists, and the Boston Celtics made 19 3-pointers to beat the Washington Wizards 123-111 Sunday and take a 1-0 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup.

Thomas played just a day after attending the funeral for his sister, who died in a car accident last month outside of Tacoma, Washington.

Al Horford added 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Jae Crowder finished with 24 points.

The Wizards were more energetic at the outset, jumping out to a 16-0 advantage and leading by as many as 17 points. But the Celtics rallied in the second quarter with Thomas briefly sidelined after getting one of his two front teeth knocked out.

Bradley Beal led Washington with 27 points. John Wall added 20 points and 16 assists.

Washington starter Markieff Morris played just 11 minutes before leaving with a sprained left ankle in the second quarter (see full recap).