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Sixers re-thinking pairing Embiid, Okafor in starting lineup

SALT LAKE CITY – Are the 76ers ready to stop or pause the twin towers experiment?

It sure sounded that way following Thursday night's 100-83 loss to the Utah Jazz at the Vivint Smart Home Arena. Following the game, coach Brett Brown was asked if he would go back to a starting lineup featuring centers Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor on Friday in Denver against the Nuggets.

The Sixers (7-24) paired Okafor with power forward Ersan Ilyasova on Thursday while Embiid had the night off to rest his surgically-repaired right foot.

"I'm not sure," Brown said of Friday's pairing. "We'll figure that out. I feel like when you study the numbers, look at gut feel, it has not been, at the moment, successful."

Brown wants to make sure that he's putting the team in the best position to win the last game of this four-game West Coast road trip.

"We'll make that decision more as we study it," he said.

His studies will show that the Sixers are better when Embiid starts at center and Ilyasova is the starting power forward.  The team has a record of 3-5 when the two are in the starting lineup together. Meanwhile, the Sixers are 1-5 in games that Embiid and Okafor are in the starting lineup, and the Sixers look out sync during those occasions,  with Okafor at center and Embiid at power forward. They also struggle defensively because Embiid is pulled away from the basket by the opponent's power forward to create room for other opponents to drive to the basket and score more easily against Okafor.

Plus, Ilyasova has been able to spread the floor and open things up for the 7-foot-2, 275-pound Embiid, while Embiid and Okafor tend to get in each other's way.

During the twin towers pairing, reserve Dario Saric had to slide down to small forward, where he struggled. In the other lineup, he excelled as the backup power forward.

The Sixers had previously said they were going to start Embiid and Okafor during the road trip when both players were available.

Follow and contact 76ers beat writer Keith Pompey on Twitter and on Instagram at PompeyOnSixers.