By Connor Thomas
For the second time this year, the Sixers get to face the top seed in the Western Conference. Philly was able to defeat the first place Lakers in South Philadelphia last month, but this time around they will have to finish out a road trip against the red hot Utah Jazz. The Jazz have been the talk of the NBA since late January, as they have rattled off an incredible 19 wins in their last 20 games. The Sixers, on the other hand, have dropped 2 of their first 3 games on their West Coast road trip. It will be an uphill battle for Doc Rivers’ side to finish off their trip at .500 with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert looming, but don’t expect the Sixers to not put up a fight. Joel Embiid has been more effective than most against the defensive stalwart Gobert, averaging a shade over 20 points per game in his 5 career matchups against the Frenchman. While that is below Embiid’s career average of 24.5, this year has seen a different beast in the post for Philadelphia. This will be an intriguing test of where the Sixers big man ceiling truly is this year as he vies for league MVP.
It is rare that a matchup between the best defensive big man in the NBA and an MVP candidate takes second fiddle in a game, but that may be the case tonight in Utah as Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell will also face off. If you remember, Mitchell was outspoken against Simmons’ eligibility to win Rookie of the Year back in 2017, despite their being a specific rule allowing Simmons to compete for the award. Whether or not the critique from Mitchell was valid, the ordeal certainly created a level of beef between the two star guards. While Simmons has turned into an elite defender since that year, Mitchell is budding into an elite scorer. Even without the past squabbles between the two, this matchup would be one for the brightest lights. With the added effect of beef, tonight’s game becomes must see tv, especially between the two stars of either side. The Jazz have a strong team advantage, considering they are rounding out a 4 game home stand while the Sixers will play their 4th straight on the road, however the tide of the game will turn on the performance of the superstar tandems mentioned above.
The offensive matchup of the game for the Sixers will be, shocker, Joel Embiid and his ability to continue his scoring against Gobert.
The defensive matchup of the game for the Sixers will be the aforementioned Simmons attempting to slow down Mitchell.
Tip off: 9pm
TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: Right here on 97.5 The Fanatic!