In their sixth game of the season, the Sixers (0-5 on the year) will face the Utah Jazz (4-3) at the Wells Fargo Center.
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While the Sixers’ best player so far this season has undoubtedly been rookie sensation Joel Embiid, the former Kansas Jayhawk and No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft might be facing his toughest defensive opponent yet on Monday.
Jazz center Rudy Gobert is among the NBA’s top shot-blockers and averaged 2.2 per game during 2015-16, good for the third-best average in the league. It’s more of the same this season for Gobert, as he’s averaging 2.0 blocks per game, which is tied for the fifth-highest average in the league entering Monday night.
Playing alongside Gobert is the 6-10 Derrick Favors, who is one of the better offensive big men in the league. Fortunately for the Sixers, Favors is still recovering from a left-knee injury and isn’t playing his full workload of minutes yet this year.
The Jazz also have point guard George Hill, who has been playing surprisingly well this season and is averaging a career-high 20.4 points per game thus far. Joining Hill in the back court is Rodney Hood and Gordon Hayward.
Hood is currently averaging career-highs in points (17.6), rebounds (4.9), steals (1.0), field goal percentage (47.4 ) and 3-point percentage (43.2). The third-year shooting guard out of Duke University appears to be on the verge of a breakout season, and could give the Sixers some trouble.
Hayward, who was sidelined for Utah’s first five games of the season with an injury to his left ring finger, returned to the court with a vengeance on Sunday, dropping a team-high 28 points as the Jazz downed the New York Knicks 114-109. He’ll be a match-up problem for the Sixers defensively.
Overall, the Jazz are a very well-rounded team that are expected to make some noise in the Western Conference playoff race this year.
The Sixers, while 0-5, could very well be 3-2 after dropping close games to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers in the final minutes of play. Philadelphia lost those three games by a combined total of 9 points and is proving that they aren’t the same pushover team that they’ve been the past few seasons.
While the 76ers were competitive against the Thunder, Magic and Cavs, they were also blown out by the Charlotte Hornets (without Embiid) and the Atlanta Hawks. It’ll be interesting to see which Sixers team shows up on Monday night.
Philadelphia has the ability to defeat the Jazz, now it’ll just be about executing. They’ll need to make their shots, limit turnovers and out-rebound the Favors-Gobert duo down low.
Most importantly, if it’s a close game, Philadelphia will have to finish strong down the stretch, an area that they’ve struggled with early in the year.