By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
Philadelphia 104, Utah 97 – Box Score
Even entering Tuesday night riding a four-game winning streak, with Joel Embiid sitting for load management reasons that may or may not have been due to the altitude of Salt Lake City, few people expected Philadelphia to come away with a victory against the Jazz. However, instead of rolling over without their star center, the Sixers went out and dominated Utah, leading nearly wire-to-wire to grab their first five-game winning streak since 2012. The times they are a-changin’.
It helps that the Sixers now have the depth to fill in for one guy who should have topped Malcolm Brogdon for Rookie of the Year with another. In Embiid’s absence, Dario Saric stepped up with his best game of the season, recording his first double-double of the year with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Saric continues to grow as a perimeter option stretching the court in the team’s jumbo starting lineup, knocking down a career-high five threes on nine attempts. After struggling to find his role early in the season, it has been great to see Dario getting comfortable the last two games, over which he’s shot 13-22 from the floor.
A number of other Sixers were also big factors in the victory. Coming off his 8-three game Friday night, J.J. Redick stayed hot with 20 points on 3-7 shooting from behind the arc. It’s crazy how little daylight he needs to get his shot off, and yet, you still feel good about each one going in. Robert Covington played tremendous defense as usual, like Dario, had his first double-double of the season with 14 points and 12 rebounds, and continued his terrific shooting by knocking down 3 of 5 triples. RoCo is now shooting 46.7% from three this season and we are about a week away from his big payday.
Yet, even with a handful of great performances up and down the roster, the Sixers wouldn’t have come away with the win without the best player on the floor, next summer’s Rookie of the Year winner Ben Simmons. In a game he didn’t even shoot particularly well (7-22 from the floor), Simmons still utterly controlled the action on both ends. He finished the night with 16 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks.
One of the great things about Ben is the high standard for himself; despite leading his team to a victory with a stat line anyone in the league would kill to have, he called it the worst professional game of his career, bringing up that he had too many turnovers (he had 6). Everyone loves Joel Embiid because of how charismatic he is, but Simmons’ quiet determination toward perfection is going to keep winning over people as well.
The most impressive development from Simmons this season has been how outstanding he’s been on the defensive end. Ben had a reputation of not being too active defensively at LSU, but now that he’s a professional, the rookie is everywhere on the court. He has great anticipation to jump passing lanes. Here, he has a TJ McConnell-esque steal in the backcourt capped by a very un-TJ-like violent finish at the rim.
Ben Simmons makes the Jazz pay, again!
Another steal and slam for Ben! pic.twitter.com/LkQiwg7DVy
— NBC Sports Philly (@NBCSPhilly) November 8, 2017
Simmons also uses his length to cover a lot of ground, showing off good, old-fashioned hustle to recover for this block of Raul Neto.
That's a no from me, dawg. pic.twitter.com/zFIK4YVJtN
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) November 8, 2017
The Sixers have not one, but two young stars who are transformative on both ends of the court. A deep supporting cast mixing fellow youngsters and veterans is in place. Plus, Markelle Fultz is out there as a weird lottery ticket, who completely forgot how to shoot in two months with a mysterious shoulder ailment, but was the consensus number one pick this summer for a reason. What I’m saying is if you’re not incredibly excited about the Sixers right now, you need to find a new way to spend your free time; the NBA isn’t for you.
The Kings are up next Thursday night.