SALT LAKE CITY — So we learned that the 76ers aren’t invincible after all.
We learned how teams are going to sag off Ben Simmons until he’s comfortable enough to launch perimeter shots. We also learned that the Sixers are still a completely different defensive team without rim protector Joel Embiid.
Tonight, we will learn if Embiid’s presence will help the Sixers (5-1) erase memories of Monday night’s 114-109 loss to the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Embiid will lead the Sixers against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena after serving a two-game suspension for fighting Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns on Oct. 30.
This will be far from an easy game. The Jazz, who are riding a two-game skid, are much better than their 4-3 record suggests. They have a center, Rudy Gobert, who is the two-time reigning defensive player of the year. Keep an eye on his individual battle against Embiid. The Jazz also added Mike Conley, one of the league’s most underrated point guards.
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— Keith Pompey (email@example.com)
Working through a slump
Josh Richardson believes the best remedy is to keep shooting.
That’s how the Sixers shooting guard intends to get out of his three-point-shooting slump.
“Shooters shoot,” said Richardson, who is shooting just 22.2% on three-pointers. “I’m not really worried about it honestly.
“I’m not going to come out and go 0-for-1. I’d rather go 0-for-5 or something like that before I stop shooting.”
He knows the Sixers need him to shoot. They need him to help space the floor. So he’s going to keep doing it.
However, he has struggled from behind the three-point line since the beginning of the season. Richardson went 0-for-4 on threes in each of the first two games. He kind of picked it up the next two games. He made 2 of 5 three-pointers against the Atlanta Hawks on Oct. 28 and, two nights later, 2 of 4 vs. the Timberwolves.
But in the last two games, he’s shot a combined 2-for-10. Richardson went 1-for-6 Saturday against the Portland Trail Blazers. He followed that up by going 1-for-4 vs. the Phoenix Suns.
“A guy like me,” he said, “I don’t get too fazed about it.”
Richardson is averaging 13.0 points and shooting 37.8% overall from the field. He’s also averaging 3.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 3.3 turnovers.
- Sixers-Suns best and worst: Devin Booker’s dominance, backcourt struggles, foul shooting. The Suns had a great tactic against Ben Simmons, sagging away, cutting off his driving lanes, and guarding him with a center, Aron Baynes, I write.
- The Sixers stand tallest in a guard-driven NBA, and they intend to win a title that way. The combination of their height, athleticism, and craving for defense has made the Sixers starting five an intimidating unit, Marc Narducci writes.
- The Sixers’ 5-1 start is a testament to Elton Brand’s decision to prepare for life without Embiid, columnist David Murphy writes.
- Al Horford and Tobias Harris are happy to take a backseat while pursuing the Sixers’ ultimate goal, I write.
- Sixers podcast: Dissecting the loss to the Phoenix Suns. Simmons and Richardson need to play much better, regardless of whether Embiid is on the floor, I say.
Patience, patience, patience
The Twitter and Facebook reactions to Monday night’s loss to the Phoenix Suns were comical. Yes, it was an horrendous defensive game by the Sixers. It’s true that Simmons chose not to shoot three-pointers or other perimeter shots when the Suns sagged off him.
I get it. But folks are acting as if this team is suddenly a fraud. Now, I’m hearing and reading that the Sixers were lucky to beat the Detroit Pistons, the Atlanta Hawks and the Portland Trail Blazers. Who knows?
The fact is the Sixers used a lot of grit to win those games. And as heartbreaking as the Suns loss was for them, they were without Embiid. Did I mention that no one expected them to go 82-0?
At 5-1, the Sixers are off to the best start in Brett Brown’s seven-year tenure as head coach. This team will improve as the season goes along and players get more familiar with each other’s game.
Important dates: Next five flow
Tonight: Sixers at Utah Jazz, 9 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Friday: Sixers at Denver Nuggets, 9 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Sunday: Charlotte Hornets at Sixers, 6 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Tuesday: Cleveland Cavaliers at Sixers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia and NBA TV
Wednesday: Sixers at Orlando Magic, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Passing the rock
Question: What’s the deal with Trey Burke? I know [Raul] Neto can play, but I was expecting Burke to give us some scoring off the bench as a combo guard. — @donnybaehr4 on Twitter
Answer: What’s good, @donnybaehr4? Thanks for the great question. I think a lot of Burke’s lack of playing time has to do with the Sixers’ need to use a traditional point guard in a reserve role. They want someone to run an offense. Burke’s is more of a score-first point guard.
I do get your point about having someone come in and get buckets. But the Sixers will continue to stagger their starters, meaning they will always have at least two of them on the court.
In those occasions, they will almost always run their offense through those two guys. That’s why Brown likes to surround them with more defensive-minded guards instead of someone such as Burke.
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