Sixers Outlast NBA-best Jazz in OT Thriller
A matchup of the best teams in each conference absolutely lived up to its billing.
The Sixers outlasted the Jazz, who hold the best record in the NBA, with a 131-123 overtime win at the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday night. With the win, the Sixers go into the All-Star break with the best record in the Eastern Conference at 24-12.
The game got off to a fast start, with Joel Embiid scoring 12 points and All-Star Donovan Mitchell recording 10 points in the first quarter. It felt like a heavyweight bout early as both teams exchanged blows.
Unfortunately, the bench unit couldn’t keep up with Utah’s offensive attack and ridiculous three-point shooting. The Jazz shot 10 of 20 from three in the first half while the Sixers hit just 1 of 8. That disparity helped Utah carry a 61-52 lead into the half.
Embiid was excellent in the first half, scoring 20 of the team’s 52 points. Embiid and Ben Simmons (8 points) shot 12 of 18 combined. The rest of the team was just 9 of 28. Mitchell led the way for the Jazz with 15.
While the three-point discrepancy didn’t get much better in the third, the Sixers managed to hit a couple and play better defensively. Simmons led the way offensively, scoring nine points and dishing out three assists in the period. They managed to cut the lead to five heading into the fourth.
Even after a rough first-half stint, Doc Rivers opted to go back to his all-bench lineup to start the fourth. They actually cut into Utah’s lead, at one point taking the lead thanks in part to Dwight Howard’s energy and his fourth made three of the season. Matisse Thybulle also played a huge role. Jordan Clarkson went for 40 in the last matchup in Utah. Thybulle held him to 10 points on just 3 of 10.
As the three-point onslaught from the Jazz continued, Embiid continued to dominate against two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert down the stretch. Embiid kept the Sixers in the game throughout the fourth, setting up his own late-game heroics.
With the Sixers trailing by three and time winding down, Embiid initially tried to take Bojan Bogdanovic to the block after a switch. Sensing that time was running down, Embiid stepped out to the wing. After a couple pump fakes, Embiid hit an extremely difficult three with 6.5 seconds left to tie the game at 118-118. Embiid was then able to challenge Mike Conley’s floater as time expired in regulation.
Tobias Harris, returning from a two-game absence, came to life in the extra session. He bullied the Jazz’s smaller defenders, scoring 11 of his 22 points in OT. Mitchell, frustrated by Simmons’ defense in the extra session, was called for two technicals and ejected. Mitchell scored 33 points but went just 12 of 34 from the field. He was 0 of 5 in overtime.
After hitting a ridiculous 20 of 37 from three in regulation, the Jazz were just 1 of 7 in OT.
Embiid continued his MVP-caliber season with 40 points and 19 rebounds. It was Embiid’s fifth game this season with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds. The rest of the league has four such games combined. Simmons finished with 17 points and six assists.
Embiid, Simmons and Rivers will head to Atlanta for the All-Star game this weekend while the rest of the Sixers get a break. They return to action on March 11 on the road against All-Star Zach LaVine and the Bulls.