When Joel Embiid's season was shortened last year, Dario Saric became the go-to guy and was the runner up for rookie of the year honors because of his dominant performance. With Embiid watching from the sidelines in Utah, Saric stepped up and proved that the player we saw last season can still do it all. Hitting from deep, driving hard, drawing fouls, playing fast and smart, and defending. Saric finished with a season-high 25 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Sixers in their fifth-straigh victory.
The offensively impressive rookie finished with a quiet 16-point, 13-rebound double-double (just four assists shy of another triple-double), but it was on defense where he shined against the Jazz. He was sneaky and aggressive, turning steals into fast break slams and passing for the open looks in transition. He racked up three blocks and three steals in the Sixers victory. Honorable mention: Robert Covington also chipped in with a 14-point, 12-rebound double-double before fouling out in the fourth quarter. It's a big shift for the Sixers to have effective and efficient double-doubles from multiple players during victories on the road, and a good sign that the team can win without their big man in the middle, Embiid.
The Sixers allowed the Jazz to score just 34 points in the paint. On Friday the Sixers struggled in the first half against the Pacers, allowing 44 PITP in the first half before shifting and cleaning up the problem in the second half. They carried the solid defensive execution into Utah — the first game of the Sixers five-game road trip. It was a true team effort with Joel Embiid and Jerryd Bayless sitting out. Richaun Holmes, Amir Johnson, Saric, and even Jahlil Okafor saw minutes playing the five position, while Justin Anderson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Nik Stauskas all saw more playing time in a game where the Sixers held the Jazz to just 97 points, the second time this season they've held an opponent under 100 points.
Sixers coach Brett Brown elected to start Holmes in Embiid's absence (ahead of Johnson). Holmes was charged with his fourth foul in the first 30 seconds of the second half, so his playing time was shortened and shaken. Despite the foul trouble, Holmes made the most of his time. He finished with six points, five rebounds, two assists, and was able to block shots, draw charges, and make a difference in the fourth even with the mounting foul count.