PHILADELPHIA — The Utah Jazz were missing George Hill, their best player this season and the reigning Western Conference player of the week. Center Rudy Gobert, matched against the dangerous Joel Embiid, was limited because of early foul trouble.
Oh, they were playing a back-to-back on the road as well.
None of that mattered.
And forget about the notion that playing a winless team after a nice week and with some tougher opponents coming up could turn into a trap game.
The Jazz easily improved to 5-3 and won away from home for the second night in a row by blowing out the Philadelphia 76ers 109-84 at Wells Fargo Center.
This win wasn’t as exciting as beating the Spurs on the road or coming from behind and closing out strong for a victory at Madison Square Garden, but it was a must-win game for a team that’s on a mission to return to the playoffs — and then some.
“I think it speaks to our depth. I think it speaks to our inner drive a little bit,” Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward said. “We have some expectations for ourselves this year. We realize what’s at stake. We’ve got to take care of these games, and tonight I think we did a good job.”
One big key to this Jazz win was the play of the bench. Between Dante Exum’s pestering defense to some savvy steals and breakaway layups from Joe Ingles to Joe Johnson’s efforts, the reserves helped Utah establish control in the latter portion of the first quarter and into the second.
It was all Utah in the second half.
“It definitely was better,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of his team’s defense, something he was critical of in Sunday’s high-scoring win over the Knicks. “I thought really when our bench came in the first quarter, they really picked it up. Dante in particular on the ball. Joe Ingles was really active. That group of guys really picked up the intensity defensively, and I thought it carried over.”
Gobert and Derrick Favors each had three swats, and the Jazz ended up blocking 11 shots as a team while holding the Sixers to 40.3 percent shooting.
“I think we did a great job defensively, especially in the last three quarters. Very active. That’s what we wanted before the game,” Gobert said. “We put our hands on balls and (were) aggressive defensively. They had a lot of turnovers and we got a lot of easy stuff offensively.”
Utah scored 17 points off of the Sixers’ 18 turnovers. The Jazz also shot 50.6 percent and had an edge in fast-break points (15-6) and points in the paint (48-34).
Playing for the second time in as many days after missing a month, Hayward had another strong game with 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Shooting guard Rodney Hood contributed 18 points with four 3-pointers, and Favors added 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Shelvin Mack started for Hill, who sprained his right thumb in Sunday’s 110-104 win at New York. Mack finished with eight points and five assists.
"I thought Gordon was really good. Some of our wings were poised getting in the paint," Snyder said. "I thought Derrick found his rhythm again tonight and is looking more and more comfortable."
Snyder went out of his way to compliment the backups on this night.
"To me," Snyder said, "our bench was the story tonight, particularly with George being out, both Shelvin and Dante being ready to play and our whole group coming off the bench giving us energy."
JAZZ NOTES: Utah gets a day off Tuesday before continuing its five-game road trip in Charlotte on Wednesday night. … Gobert fouled out for the second consecutive game. He had eight points and six rebounds. … Backup power forward Trey Lyles scored only seven points on 2-of-9 shooting, but the Jazz outscored the Sixers by 28 points while he was on the court for just under 31 minutes. … Sixers assistant Kevin Young is a Salt Lake City native who has previously coached twice in Utah as an assistant at Utah Valley University and as an assistant and head coach of the now-defunct Utah Flash.