SALT LAKE CITY — On the night Joel Embiid returned, the 76ers lost Ben Simmons.
Simmons left in the second quarter of Wednesday night’s 106-104 loss to the Utah Jazz with a minor sprain of the AC joint in his right shoulder. He did not return and will be evaluated on Thursday in Denver.
Meanwhile, Embiid finished with game highs of 27 points and two blocks to go with a co-game-high 16 rebounds in his first game back after serving a two-game suspension for fighting Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns on Oct. 30.
He noted that he had a bad shooting night, making 5 of 16 shots. Embiid said that being out of rhythm due to the time off might have been a factor. But he didn’t want to use that as an excuse.
He said it felt great to be back on the court playing with his teammates.
“Obviously getting suspended is not good for me and the team,” Embiid said. "So it’s never going to happen again.
“But I’m happy to be back. We got another one in Denver. We got to get that win. We can’t lose three straight.”
But his presence didn’t have the impact the Sixers (5-2) had hoped. They will look to snap their two-game skid Friday night against the Denver Nuggets.
At the moment, Simmons’ status for that game has not been determined. But one would assume that he will probably miss the matchup against the Nuggets (5-2). The recovery time for a Grade 1 AC joint sprain can take up to three weeks.
“I hope he’s going to be all right," Tobias Harris said. "I hope he’s gonna be all right. I checked him after the game. He said he’s going to be OK.
“We’ll just have to wait for tomorrow and see what happens.”
He suffered the injury in the first quarter. With 8 minutes, 13 seconds left in the quarter, he received an entry pass in the high post. He spun right to make a move. His right shoulder banged into the chest of Utah’s Royce O’Neale.
After the contact, Simmons immediately held his shoulder.
He played on before being subbed out of the game with 3:31 left in the quarter. Simmons wore what looked like a heating pad on his shoulder while on the bench. He also appeared to have a tough time raising his arm above his shoulder.
Simmons checked back into the game with 6:56 left in the half. However, he took himself out of the game during a break in the action at the 5:20 mark and walked straight to the locker room. Simmons had a tough time moving his right arm before leaving the game.
He finished with two points on 1-for-2 shooting to go with two assists and a rebound in 10 minutes of action.
Simmons was unavailable for comment. He left the locker room before reporters arrived.
Meanwhile, Embiid finished with his third double-double of the season.
He had an impact early, blocking Rudy Gobert’s layup 19 seconds into the game. However, Gobert returned the favor on Embiid’s first shot attempt, an 8-foot layup, 1:22 into the game. Embiid grabbed the rebound and missed the putback.
But he scored his first two points on a pair of foul shots minutes later to give the Sixers a 7-2 lead. The Cameroon native scored his first basket on a 3-foot hook shot with 3:07 left in the quarter. He converted a three-pointer to put the Sixers, 24-21, at the 2:04 mark.
Embiid finished the quarter with seven points on 2-for-6 shooting to go with three rebounds, three assists, and a block. He added 11 points in the second quarter, before being held scoreless in the third while missing all four shot attempts. Embiid added nine points in the fourth quarter.
For the game, he made 16 of 18 foul shots, including a pair to pull the Sixers within 102-100 with 2:17 left.
After the Jazz responded with a 4-1 run, Embiid split two free throws to pull the Sixers within 106-102 with 51.3 seconds left. Gobert fouled out on that play. Josh Richardson’s basket at the buzzer set the final score.
Not having Simmons impacted the Sixers.
“His presence out there is felt on both ends of the floor,” Harris said. "His ability to get in the paint and to create havoc and just to have the team load up vs. him was missed.
“Hopefully it’s nothing too crazy. Hopefully he will be OK for next game. Until then, we will have to have the next man up mentality and be ready.”
With Simmons injured, Raul Neto played a season-high 30:10. He also had season highs for points (11), rebounds (three), assists (four), steals (three) and turnovers (four).
Richardson finished with a season-high 24 points for the Sixers. Tobias Harris added 16 points, seven rebounds and two turnovers. However, Al Horford had a tough night two days after scoring a season-high 32 points in Phoenix. The power forward finished with seven points on 3-for-14 shooting.
Donovan Mitchell paced the Jazz (5-3) with 24 points. Bojan Bogdanovic added 20 points. Gobert had 14 points, 16 rebounds, three steals, and one block.
The Sixers are seventh in the league in rebounding at 47.3 per game. However, the Jazz had a 50-42 advantage. They doubled up Philly, 14-7, on offensive rebounds.
“That’s unacceptable, especially because we are so huge,” Embiid said of being outrebounded by eight rebounds overall. “We are big, especially the starting lineup. We should be able to dominate the glass every single night.”