What looked like a runaway rout provided a few anxious fourth-quarter moments for the 76ers. Trailing by 19 points after three quarters, the Utah Jazz summoned strength from their weary legs and cut the deficit to seven with just under a minute to go.
It proved to be too little, too late for Utah as the Sixers earned a 103-94 win Monday at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Sixers (15-6) are now 10-0 at home. The Jazz (12-9) can only hope for some home cooking after a disastrous road trip that mercifully ended in Philadelphia.
“Obviously, they got some good looks at the end, but one thing we can take from it is halting that type of run,” said Tobias Harris, who led the Sixers with 26 points. “Aside from that, over the course of the game, we did a really good job of defending them and playing the way we want to play.”
Harris is becoming adept at being a closer for the Sixers. As the Jazz were attempting to get back, he hit several big shots, scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter.
This was a night when Joel Embiid didn’t have to be Superman. Facing two-time reigning NBA defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert, Embiid scored 16 points, shooting 5-for-13 from the field. Gobert had 27 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots.
This was another all-around game for Sixers point guard Ben Simmons, who had 14 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, and 4 steals.
The player who set the tone for the Sixers was Al Horford, who scored 12 of his 17 points in the first quarter. In that opening period, he hit all five shots, including two from three-point range.
“I started with a good rhythm," he said, "and I just think the more games I am starting to play, the more I am understanding where my shots are coming from and how I need to play and things I have to do. So I was happy to get it going early.”
The Sixers led by as many as 26 points in the second quarter and held a 60-42 halftime lead.
The Jazz, meanwhile, hadn’t seen a first-half barrage like that for, oh, 24 hours.
Actually, the fact that they were down 18 at halftime must have made the Jazz feel they were in a barnburner, especially after Sunday’s 130-110 loss in Toronto.
In that game, Utah trailed by 77-37 at intermission, which not surprisingly was the biggest halftime deficit in team history.
On the bright side, the Jazz are headed home after this 1-4 road trip. The only Jazz win was at lowly Memphis.
Before the season, Utah was considered a Western Conference contender. That still could happen, but the Jazz will have to earn better results on the road, where they are now 4-8.
Coupling their troubles was that Mike Conley left the game in the third quarter with tightness in his left hamstring and didn’t return.
Speaking of injuries, the Sixers played their third straight game without starting guard Josh Richardson, who is sidelined with right hamstring tightness.
As for the Sixers, this was their third game in four days, although the last two were at home following a short trip Friday to New York.
The Sixers had plenty of early energy but probably wished they didn’t allow the Jazz to hang around for so long.
“It was nice until they made a run,” Simmons said. “But that is a good team, a well-coached team, they have great players and are always going to fight.”
Late in the game, the refs had a fan ejected for saying something to Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell.
“He was just being disrespectful," said Mitchell, who wouldn’t say what was said. “I like Philly. I just think that talking trash, I appreciate that part of the game. You know, when you start talking personal stuff, I think that’s when things get out of control. [Utah forward] Joe [Ingles] had my back. I was about to say something and Joe had my back. It’s just is what it is.”