After the 76ers came back against the Indiana Pacers at home on Friday in thrilling fashion, the boys in red, white and blue have had three days to decompress and get ready for their west coast swing. That was their second straight win in front of the Philly crowd, and fourth straight win overall. The 76ers are over the .500 mark (right now sitting at 5-4) for the first time since November 13, 2013, but take on a tough part of the schedule that begins Tuesday night.
The 76ers would usually take their west coast trip over the Christmas time, while the Wells Fargo Center would host Disney on Ice. However, with that not the case, and the 76ers playing in the London game in early January against the Celtics, they are taking their west coast swing now. They will be playing five games in nine nights, but luckily, none of them are back to backs. They will start in Utah before heading to Sacramento, Oakland, and LA for both the Clippers and Lakers.
This stretch is extremely important to see if this team can keep the momentum going, but let’s just focus on the first game; tonight against the Utah Jazz. The 76ers will be without Joel Embiid tonight due to “load management”, otherwise known as rest. If they project Embiid to play between 65-70 games, he will have to take a couple games off for rest, it makes sense. Also, they will be without Jerryd Bayless, who has shot the ball really well to start the season, who is now out indefinitely with a wrist injury. It is the same wrist that kept him out of 79 of the 82 games last year. The 76ers have been going with a new starting lineup as of late, going bigger and starting Dario Saric and putting Bayless on the bench (now being out it doesn’t affect him). That lineup of Simmons-Redick-Covington-Saric-Embiid has been very good in the minutes they have played together. However, tonight, those center minutes will be occupied by Richaun Holmes (who just returned from a wrist injury) and Amir Johnson.
The Utah Jazz have kept that core together of Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert and Rodney Hood together while adding Ricky Rubio and Thabo Sefelosha to the mix. The Jazz currently sit at 5-5 and are 5-1 at home, with their only loss at home coming to the Toronto Raptors in their most recent home game. They’ve picked up some quality wins so far against the Thunder and Blazers, but have also lost to the Phoenix Suns. Surprisingly, Ricky Rubio has led the team in points and assists through the first 10 games while Rudy Gobert is quietly averaging 14.5 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.
The 76ers want to play a free flowing game with a lot of points, while the Jazz definitely differ focusing on the defensive end of the floor. There are a couple of stats to keep an eye on for tonight’s game. The Jazz lead the league in free throw percentage (83.1%) while the 76ers rank dead last (68.1%). However, the 76ers can make up for their free throw woes from the three point line. The 76ers are 3rd in the league in three point percentage and defend the three point line at the second best rate in the league. Utah is 13th in three point percentage and near the bottom at defending it. The 76ers should be able to exploit the Jazz from deep.