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Analysis: Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside’s contributions power Jazz to win over Joel Embiid and 76ers

Thanks to big contributions from Utah’s two big men, the Jazz took care of business in Philly.

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Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert jumps to block a shot by Philadelphia 76ers’ Tobias Harris

Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert, right, defends against a shot by Philadelphia 76ers’ Tobias Harris during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Philadelphia.

Chris Szagola, Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — The Utah Jazz beat the Philadelphia 76ers 118-96 on Thursday night, improving to 18-7 on the season with a sixth straight win.

High notes

  • Here’s a list of basketball players on the Jazz roster that seemingly never fail to do amazing things from one night to the next: Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley. Nearly every single instant analysis article of the season is going to have something about one, if not all, of those players. If they’re not mentioned it’s probably only because I don’t want to sound like a broken record. But I can’t really get around the truth, and the truth is that Mitchell continues to improve every single game, Conley seems like he might be the player that defeats Father Time and Gobert just always seems to find a way to dominate a game. All were true on Thursday.
  • In particular, Gobert and Hassan Whiteside deserve a couple of attaboys for what they did against the Sixers. At first Whiteside, in his first game back after missing two, looked like he was not going to be able to withstand the offensive size and skill of the Sixers’ frontcourt. But he really took on that challenge in the second half when Gobert was in a little bit of foul trouble. Both Gobert and Whiteside played with a lot of strength, which was certainly needed. The two combined for 31 points and 31 rebounds.
    “Hassan, when Rudy got in foul trouble early, I thought when he came in he really stabilized us.” — Jazz head coach Quin Snyder
  • There were a lot of things that went right for the Jazz and that the Jazz did right but there was one thing, above all else, that I felt like deserves being pointed out. At a juncture in the second half the Jazz had a little bit of a lead but it wasn’t anything seriously substantial. It was the perfect opportunity for the Jazz to step on the gas and blow things open. At about that same time you could tell that Joel Embiid was starting to lose steam. The Jazz jumped on that opportunity and did not let up or loosen their grip on the game. They did exactly the right thing at the right time and that’s why they won this game. They didn’t lose focus and get relaxed. They pressed even harder.
    “Tonight we had eight guys score more than 10 points. You don’t see that every night. For us, we’re just trying to get better and make things harder for the other team.” — Rudy Gobert

Low notes

  • Thursday marked the first time in a long time that the Sixers’ injury report wasn’t littered with names and include a high percentage of the team’s regular rotation players. Head coach Doc Rivers actually thought it was a mistake when he got a clean injury report earlier in the day because he’d gotten so used to having multiple players out for injuries or because of the league’s health and safety protocols after the team had a COVID-19 breakout that kept Joel Embiid sidelined for multiple weeks. The good part is that the Sixers might actually get to play some semblance of their full team in the coming games. The bad news is that guys who are just returning, namely Embiid, are just not ready for full-bore basketball.
  • Embiid looked absolutely gassed during the game and at one point ran to the locker room pointing at his chest like he needed to catch his breath. It’s just such a stark reminder that things are not back to normal and that this virus can impact even the most healthy and conditioned of people. Weird times.
  • Tyrese Maxey seemed to hit his head pretty hard in the second quarter, which I thought would have sent him into the NBA’s concussion protocol, but he came back into the game after a short spell. Hope that he’s OK.

Flat notes

  • Knowing how much time is on the clock is essential. I just don’t have a lot of patience for a basketball player not knowing how much time is on either the shot clock or the game clock. That’s part of the job. And if you don’t want your players constantly checking the clock then the bench and assistants and coaching staff should be yelling out numbers. There’s not a great excuse for a guy like Bojan Bogdanovic to not know how much time is on the clock coming out of a timeout.
  • I’ll concede that I haven’t watched a ton of Philadelphia basketball this season, but in every game that I have watched, Andre Drummond has been detrimental to what the Sixers are trying to do. It would be one thing if he added something on either side of the ball and if there was a positive that you could point to, but he’s a liability for the Sixers. They’d be much better off doing literally anything other than playing Drummond. I’d be surprised if he’s still on the team by February.