SALT LAKE CITY – There had been two 76ers teams since the start of last season.
With Joel Embiid, they were a competitive squad that was fun to watch. When he didn't play, they often were a team that was run out of the gym.
The Embiid-less Sixers changed that reality Tuesday night, defeating the Utah Jazz, 104-97.
Dario Saric hit a pair of foul shots with 10.2 seconds left to make it a 102-97 game. Then Ben Simmons made a pair with 3.2 seconds remaining, giving the Sixers their seven-point margin of victory.
The win at Vivint Smart Home Arena improved the Sixers to 6-4 and extended their winning streak to five games. This is their longest winning streak since they won six straight from Dec. 31, 2011 to Jan. 10, 2012.
The Sixers also snapped two losing streaks to Utah (5-6). This marked the first time they defeated the Jazz in their last 10 series meetings. It was also their first win in Utah since Jan. 5, 2005. The Sixers had lost 12 straight road games in the series.
The important thing is they were able to do it without Embiid. He was back in Philadelphia resting his surgically repaired left knee. Embiid will join the team Wednesday in Sacramento on the second leg of their five-game, 10-day road trip. The Sixers will face the Kings on Thursday night.
They'll be happy to have their big fella return. But while it wasn't pretty, the Sixers will cherish winning without him.
"This shows a lot about our team. That we pushed and we can fight through it and there's guys who step up," Simmons said. "We missed two great players for our team."
In addition to Embiid, the Sixers were without reserve combo guard Jerryd Bayless, who's out indefinitely with a bruised left wrist.
The Sixers snapped their nine-game losing streak without Embiid dating to last season. They are 16-37 in games Embiid missed since the start of last season. The Sixers are 18-19 when he plays.
Power forward Saric, point guard Simmons, shooting guard JJ Redick and swingman Robert Covington wouldn't let the Sixers lose. Saric, who also saw action at center, finished with a game-high 25 points. He made a career-high five three-pointers in nine attempts.
Simmons finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. He shot just 7-for-22 from the field and committed six turnovers. However, Simmons became the first rookie to start his career with at least seven double-doubles in his first 10 games since Shaquille O'Neal during the 1992-93 season. O'Neal recorded double-doubles in his first 11 career games.
"I'm just happy that I can do it in any way I can," Simmons said of contributing across the board with seven double-doubles. "It's tough missing two guys and having two other guys coming in in the starting lineup. That's new, but at the same time, they have to be ready and I have to be prepared."
Redick finished with 20 points while making 3 of 7 three-pointers. Thirteen of his points came in the third quarter. Covington finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out with 2 minutes, 55 seconds remaining.
He wasn't the only Sixer in foul trouble.
None of the team's available centers could stay on the floor in the first half. Richaun Holmes, who got the start, had three fouls before intermission. So did backups Amir Johnson and Jahlil Okafor. Okafor actually picked up his first foul during his first seven seconds of action. He had two fouls in a little over a minute of play. Okafor finished with zero points on 0-for-2 shooting to go with one assist, one turnover, and his three fouls in 2:12 while playing the final 3:08 of the first quarter.
The Sixers benefited from Utah's horrid shooting. The Jazz shot 30.3 percent from the field. Rodney Hood was their leading scorer with 19 points.
The Sixers had a 16-point lead in the first quarter only to have the Jazz knot the score at 41 with 1:53 left before intermission. Then they opened up an 18-point cushion late in the third quarter. Utah, however, pulled within three points, 100-97, with 10.2 to play.
"They never stopped playing no matter how much we got up," Holmes said of the Jazz.
Utah, however, was unable to get over the hump due to its poor shooting. Hood made just 4 of 14 shots. Meanwhile, Ricky Rubio finished with 11 points on 4-for-16 shooting. Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell, the sixth man, made just 3 of 21 shots to finish with eight points.
They were able to get back into the game thanks in large part to the Sixers' season-high 22 turnovers. Utah turned these giveaways into 21 points. The Sixers also committed 34 fouls compared to 23 by the Jazz.
That led to Okafor playing in his second game of the season. Saric was also forced to play center in the second quarter with Okafor, Holmes, and Johnson all in foul trouble.
Despite that, the Sixers managed to hold on to win a game they would have let slip away in the past four seasons.
"This is a good day," coach Brett Brown said. "This is a great night …. When it got a little bit funny, we found a way to regroup, make some steals, make some free throws. That's what should be remembered."