By: Kylan Watson
The Philadelphia 76ers travelled to Utah to face the Jazz in the opener of their five-game West Coast road trip. Philly was looking to redeem themselves after being blown off their home-court on Thursday night by the Thunder. They were able to rebound thanks to a fourth quarter offensive from James Harden and a game-winning shot by Joel Embiid to beat Utah 118-117.
The emphasis for Philly tonight was clearly to start the game off hot because they hit their first couple of shots and were threatening to run the Jazz off their home-floor. Before the Jazz could even settle down, they were down by 20 at the end of half-time. James Harden was the leading scorer for the Sixers tonight as he scored 31-points, had 11-assists, and hit four three-pointers. His playmaking was pivotal in today’s contest and showed itself off early in the game. He was able to find his teammates in their offensive sweet-spots, on one play tonight he hit a no look pass to Joel Embiid which ended in a dunk and that play shows how much Harden had his passing skills working tonight it did not matter if it was a regular pass or a fancy one it found his teammates and the ball found the bottom of the net. Since Harden’s return the Sixers’ scoring capability has increased and if he can find his teammates like he did tonight they will have one of the best scoring punches in the league. Harden kept the Sixers afloat and the fourth quarter he hit all four of his three-pointers in that period and scored 18 of the Sixers 30-points in that period. Harden rounding into form since his return from injury has been great for the Sixers and they will need a lot from him especially if Tobias Harris does not play during this road trip.
Despite the offensive explosion from Harden the Jazz continued to fight and made it difficult for Philly. They were able to finally get some shots to fall and erase the 20-point lead that the Sixers had. Jordan Clarkson led them he scored 38-points and hit three three-pointers tonight. He cooked the Sixers defenders tonight and it did not matter if there was a hand in his face or not the shots were finding the bottom of the net. Clarkson took full advantage of the Sixers not having a capable wing defender who could check him tonight and when the Sixers would take away the three-point shot, he would attack the basket and get the Sixers defenders in foul trouble. The Sixers had another inconsistent night defensively on the perimeter. They need to find a way to get tougher on that end especially without Tobias Harris (Missed tonight’s game because of a sore knee). A lot more of the defensive work will fall on De’Anthony Melton and James Harden who will need to find a way to take care of the man, so the defensive weight doesn’t fall on Joel Embiid to continually cover up the mistakes of the perimeter defenders. If the Sixers can get that part of the court figured out, they can be one of the best teams in the loaded Eastern Conference.
The Jazz were able to retake the lead in the fourth quarter and when the Sixers needed an answer they turned to Joel Embiid and James Harden. Both hit two pivotal baskets to help Philly get the win tonight. Their pick-and-roll game was what closed it out tonight for them. Harden was able to find Joel Embiid for a one-footed Dirk Nowitzki-esque one footed paint jumper that sealed the game for the Sixers. The duo seems to be developing a deeper chemistry that pushed them over the top tonight, and that will need to continue to increase if the Sixers want to make a deep playoff run.
Phill will now prepare to face the Los Angeles Lakers tomorrow night and they will need to continue to keep the ball moving to increase their offensive capabilities. Additionally, they will need to improve their perimeter defensive scheme if they expect to stifle LeBron James and Anthony Davis and get their 27th victory of the season.