SALT LAKE CITY – Here are my key takeaways and "best" and "worst" awards from the 76ers' 104-97 victory over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night at the Vivint Smart Home Arena.
The 76ers proved they can win without Joel Embiid. This victory was far from pretty, however. At times, it was straight-up unsightly. However, it was a confidence booster for a team that was without its franchise center, who rested his surgically repaired left knee.
Remember what I wrote after Friday's game, that Ben Simmons looked as if he should become the first rookie to be an NBA All-Star since Blake Griffin in 2011? That also applied Tuesday even though he shot 7 for 22 and committed a team-worst six turnovers. Simmons played a major role in the victory, finishing with 16 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks. As a result, he joins Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal as the only rookies in NBA history to record at least seven double-doubles in their first 10 games.
The Sixers will have a hard time taking Dario Saric out of the starting lineup. The power forward had his best game of the season and also took on some center duties. He finished with a season-high 25 points and a career-high five three-pointers in a career-high nine attempts. His two foul shots with 10.2 seconds left gave the Sixers a five-point cushion.
The Sixers are doing Jahlil Okafor a disservice by not playing him. The reserve center made his second appearance of the season during the final 3 minutes, 8 seconds of the first quarter. He struggled mightily. The game appeared to be too fast for the third overall pick of the 2015 draft. Okafor missed both of his shots – one was blocked – en route to scoring zero points. He also committed a turnover. The worst part was he committed three fouls in his first 2:12. Okafor's first foul came seven seconds into his time on the floor. It was surprising that the Sixers even stayed with him for 3:08.
The Sixers still are turnover-prone. They committed a season-worst 22 turnovers, which led to 21 points for the Jazz. Turnovers kept the Sixers from putting Utah away despite holding leads of 16 and 18 points.
“Best” and “Worst” awards
Best performance: I had to give this award to Saric on a night when Simmons recorded his seventh double-double. Yes, Saric was that special. He picked a great game to produce his best performance of the season.
Worst performance: I couldn't avoid giving this to Okafor. The reserve center was overwhelmed during his brief stint on the floor.
Best defensive performance: Simmons finished with a season-high three blocks and a career-high-tying three steals.
Worst statistic: This goes to Donovan Mitchell for shooting 3 for 21 from the field. The Jazz rookie guard, who had the most shot attempts on the team, would have been wise to pass the ball more. It was obvious early that this wasn't the sixth man's night.
Best statistic: This goes to Simmons (2 for 2), Saric (6-6), JJ Redick (7-7) and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (2-2) shooting a combined 17-17 from the foul line for the Sixers.
Worst of the worst: I had to give this to Okafor's three fouls in 2:12. He was on pace to foul out in less than five minutes. He probably would have done so if the Sixers had continued to play him after the first quarter. This, though, wasn't the type of effort that would warrant more playing time.