The Utah Jazz will look to put their most recent ugly loss behind them as they go toe-to-toe with the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.
When looking at the Utah Jazz’s five-game road trip that started on Monday in Memphis, the one game that Jazz fans likely had circled as the easiest win of the trip was Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks. Instead, the Jazz got curb-stomped by a whopping 50 points. So…that’s something.
Now, the Jazz will face three daunting Eastern Conference foes in a row, beginning with the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night. Needless to say, if Utah lays an egg again in Philly like they did in Dallas, it’s going to be a long and ugly contest. Despite some ups and downs that have the 76ers at a mediocre 9-7, good for just fifth in the East, they’re a solid squad that’s certainly capable of causing the Jazz some trouble.
In other words, it will be a big night for the Jazz to prove their resilience and ability to bounce back. If they come out and play as they did in Memphis on Monday or against the Boston Celtics last Friday, then it could lead to a nice victory to reset the tone. Otherwise, they’ll fall back below .500 once again while losing to a team that’s supposed to be an even match as both have aspirations of rising up the standings in their respective conferences.
While the Sixers of course boast familiar foes in the likes of Ben Simmons, who edged out Donovan Mitchell for Rookie of the Year, and Joel Embiid, who has been accused by the Utah faithful of ducking out of contests against Rudy Gobert (which could lead to an exciting matchup), the biggest story for the team right now is the recent addition of Jimmy Butler. The 76ers decided to go all in by trading two key role players acquired in the days of ‘The Process’, Robert Covington and Dario Saric, for All-Star Jimmy Butler.
Butler’s debut with Philly wasn’t overwhelming as he posted just 14 points in a loss to the Orlando Magic while posting a plus/minus of minus-10. That said, he’s still a tremendous player and once he gets accustomed to his new squad will very likely be a dangerous foe. Butler has found success against the Jazz in plenty of bouts past, so don’t be surprised if he gets his mojo back sooner rather than later.
Then again, the Sixers may find themselves in for a tough adjustment and a bit of a rude awakening considering that they traded away two of their best floor-stretching options in Covington and Saric. Meanwhile, Butler isn’t exactly a sniper from long range by any stretch of the imagination. If Utah can capitalize on Philly’s lack of floor spacing on offense, the defense could be in for a nice night, and a bounce-back from recent performances where they’ve been awful.
Despite the slow start, it’s hard to not believe that Utah’s defense will eventually get back up to snuff considering how daunting it’s been in years past. What will truly be uncertain is Utah’s offense which has been putrid of late. In the horrendous loss to Dallas, Utah shot a painful 30.9 percent from the floor and an embarrassing 17.1 percent from deep, making just six of 35 attempts.
Especially in going up against a defense like that of the Sixers which was one of the best a season ago, that kind of effort simply isn’t going to cut it. The Jazz have done a better job of stepping up for big games, such as against Golden State, Houston and Boston this year, so we’ll see if they can continue that trend by coming out much more prepared against Philadelphia.
Quite truthfully, it’s concerning to see them seemingly pick and choose when they’re going to put in an effort, but if they can keep up the stiff competition against top-tier teams, at least we’ll know that they have some of their elite attributes still intact. It will be intriguing to see if they’re able to quickly bounce back from the loss in Dallas, turning that blowout into a mere outlier, or if the funk they’re in will continue moving forward.
I’m hesitant to do this, because I’ve been really disappointed in Utah’s play so far this season, but I’m going to go with the former. I think they’ll come out with a chip on their shoulder, angry at the loss they suffered against the Mavs and ready to finally prove that they’re better than what they’ve shown. Hopefully that 50-point slaughter lit a fire under them and they’ll be ready to play.
If they are to win, they’ll need to capitalize on a Sixers team that is still adjusting to the addition of Jimmy Butler, drastically cut down on the turnovers and simply find a way to get in a rhythm on offense. Donovan Mitchell should have plenty of reason to want to show out against Ben Simmons, and you can bet that the Jazz as a whole won’t want to be viewed as inferior to a highly-touted Sixers squad.
It’s going to be a hard-fought battle and the recent trends might lead one to believe that the Jazz will lose, but I’m predicting a nice turnaround and a solid win in Philly.
Prediction – Jazz 107, 76ers 101
There’s a chance the Jazz could really make me eat my words here. They’ve done so on several occasions this season. Let’s hope they turn over a new leaf and the Utah Jazz team we’ve all been waiting for finally shows up.
The Jazz and Sixers tip off on Friday night at 5:00 PM MT.