SALT LAKE CITY - The 76ers had another fourth-quarter meltdown.
It would be untrue to say that any of their late-game struggles have been surprising. When you're the NBA's last-place team, losing in a variety of ways is expected.
This time, the Sixers went into the fourth quarter with a 74-70 lead. However, the Utah Jazz opened the quarter with a 21-2 run on the way to a 100-83 victory Thursday night at Vivent Smart Home Arena. Utah scored the first 10 points of the quarter. Then after a Sixers basket, the Jazz responded with 11 straight points.
"I thought we played good for 80 percent of the game," said center Jahlil Okafor, whose team was held to nine points in the fourth quarter. "They just got really hot towards the end of the game. They hit a bunch of threes. We didn't hit shots."
The Sixers had their share of defensive blunders in the final quarter. But the Jazz (20-13) did a good job of shooting the ball. They made 5 of 10 three-pointers and shot 57.9 percent from the field in the quarter.
George Hill, who had been sidelined with a sprained by toe since Nov. 29, scored 13 of his game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter. He made all five of his fourth-quarter baskets.
The Sixers (7-24), meanwhile, made just 4 of 23 shots in the quarter and committed six turnovers.
One bright spot for the Sixers was the play of Nerlens Noel in his first extended minutes of the season. The Sixers' third-string center finished with a season-high 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting to go with six rebounds and one steal in 22 minutes, 18 seconds. He had averaged just 7.8 minutes in this season's five appearances before Thursday. He played more mostly because Joel Embiid sat out the game to rest his right foot.
"I'm just thankful Coach gave me an opportunity and I wanted to go out there and play my game," Noel said. "That what my focus was the whole night."
The Sixers were also without shooting guard Gerald Henderson. Point guard Sergio Rodriguez suffered a game-ending left ankle sprain in the third quarter.
Ersan Ilyasova paced the Sixers with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Dario Saric added 14 points off the bench. Okafor had 13 points but was held scoreless after intermission.
Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood added 20 points apiece for the Jazz.
The Sixers have lost four straight games since a 108-107 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Dec. 18. This was their eighth consecutive loss to Utah and their 12th straight setback to the Jazz on their home court.
The Sixers' last victory in Utah came when Kenny Thomas scored a game-high 30 points and Allen Iverson added 23 points and nine assists in a 106-99 decision on Jan. 5, 2005.
But this season's Sixers team is much worse than that one. And the 2004-05 Jazz squad wasn't quite as good as this season's version.
"How would you like to have an offseason when you bring in Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw, and George Hill?" Sixers coach Brett Brown said of Utah.
The Jazz added those three veterans to a young core that features Hayward, Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors, and Hood.
The mixture of talent is the reason the Jazz entered the night one game behind the first-place Oklahoma City Thunder in the Northwest Division standings.
The Jazz came into the game tops in the NBA in scoring defense (95.3 points per game) and second in field-goal percentage defense (43.0).
So on Thursday, the Sixers' game plan was to push tempo, share the ball and have tremendous action off the ball. They tried, using all 10 healthy players in the first quarter en route to taking a 51-49 lead at the half.
Thursday marked the 10th game Embiid has missed and his first since Dec. 11 at Detroit. He was sidelined that game with inflammation of his right elbow. However, the other nine games were scheduled off days in back-to-back situations.
He'll return to action Friday night against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. However, Henderson will miss his second straight game with an injured left hip. Rodriguez will also be sidelined.