SALT LAKE CITY — The ideal Utah Jazz starting lineup, which had only played a grand total of 12 minutes together all season, was finally back together Thursday night as George Hill rejoined the team — finally — for the first time in exactly a month.
Although it took awhile for the Jazz to get synchronized, Hill’s presence in the lineup was obvious as he led the Jazz to a 100-83 win over Philadelphia Thursday night at Vivint Arena as Utah improved to 20-13 on the season.
Never was Hill’s value more apparent than in the fourth quarter when he scored 13 points and led the Jazz on a decisive 30-9 run to turn what looked like a possible loss against the NBA’s worst team into a deceiving runaway victory.
For the night, Hill’s numbers were outstanding. How about a game-high 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting, 2-for-2 from 3-point range, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals and a blocked shot for good measure.
“It’s great to have him back,” said Gordon Hayward, who scored 20 points on the night. “He played well in his first game back, especially there at the end when he kind of controlled it on the offensive end, and I can’t say enough about his defensive play too.”
“George clearly played well, even though he’s been out,” said coach Quin Snyder.
Hill had missed eight games earlier in the season with a sprained thumb and then missed the last 13 games with a sprained right big toe. He practiced earlier in the week, but missed Thursday’s shootaround and wasn’t declared a go until an hour before the game
“I told the guys I’ll do all I can,” said Hill, who acknowledged that he’s still a ways from being 100 percent. “It starts on the defensive end and carries over, and when the shot's there, just be aggressive. I let the game come to me.”
Early on, the Jazz jumped out to an eight-point lead and looked like they would cruise against the lowly Sixers. However, Philadelphia scored 10 straight to take a 10-point lead after the first quarter and kept the lead most of the way through the third quarter when they took a 74-70 lead into the final quarter.
That’s when the Jazz finally woke up, scoring 10 straight points in a little over two minutes and holding the Sixers to 1-for-14 shooting as the Jazz went on a 21-2 run at the midway point of the quarter.
First Rodney Hood sank a pair of shots, including a 3-pointer, and then Hayward scored a bucket in the lane. Then Trey Lyles sank a 3-pointer and Hood scored again with a 22-footer.
The Sixers finally broke the spell with a basket, but the Jazz ran off 11 straight more points, including 3-pointers by Lyles and Hill, from about 28 feet out.
Hood added 20 points, while Lyles scored 11 points off the bench. Rudy Gobert’s streak of 11 straight double-doubles ended as he finished with nine points and 13 rebounds. He would have easily kept the streak alive, but only managed 3 of 11 from the free-throw line, a big reason why the Jazz had their lowest free-throw percentage of the year at 53.6 percent on 15 of 28.
The Sixers played without leading scorer Joel Embid, who was resting, but Nerlens Noels, who had only played in five games this season after sitting out with a knee injury, scored 14 points off the bench. Ersan Ilysova led the Sixers with 16 points, while Dario Saric scored 14 off the bench and Jahil Okafor scored 13 points.
After playing Phoenix on New Year’s Eve, the Jazz embark on a five-game road trip, beginning with Brooklyn Monday night.