It was ugly.
There’s no denying that. It was ugly and will be one of the 76ers’ more forgettable wins. But in actuality, it may also be an important win.
A 107-86 decision Monday over the Utah Jazz showed that the Sixers can win even when playing horribly.
“I think it had to do a lot with Utah’s style,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said of his team’s play.
He pointed out that the Sixers like to play fast, and Utah doesn’t. The Jazz are a static pick-and-roll team.
“The rhythm of the game wasn’t sort of the identity that we are trying to play with offensively,” Brown said. “It ended up being more of a fistfight from the defensive standpoint and the rebounding standpoint.”
The Sixers (9-7) had a 55-34 rebounding advantage and held the Jazz to 35.3 percent shooting.
They, however, made a season-low four three-pointers on 15 attempts (26.7 percent). Even that was misleading. JJ Redick was 2-for-2 from that distance. The rest of the team went 2-for-13. And those two three-pointers came late in the game by Robert Covington.
The Sixers also made just 68.2 percent (15 of 22) of their of foul shots. They shot 51.8 percent from the field, but missed some point-blank baskets near the rim. And there is the fact that the Sixers looked flat and uninspired in the first half.
But they were able to hold off the Jazz (7-11) in large part because of rebounding, defense, Ben Simmons, Redick, and Amir Johnson.
Simmons scored 22 of his career-high 27 points in the second half. The rookie point guard also finished the game with 10 rebounds, four steals, four turnovers and a career-low two assists. It was his fourth consecutive double-double and 11th of the season.
Redick scored all 20 of his points on 6-for-7 shooting after intermission. He and Simmons combined to score 42 of the Sixers’ 60 second-half points.
“I’m always going to be aggressive,” said the shooting guard, who missed all three of his first-half shots. “There just wasn’t opportunities to get shots off in the first half. … I scored 20 in the second half, but I didn’t feel like at anytime I was forcing anything.”
Johnson was a spark off the bench after seeing no action against the Golden State Warriors. The reserve center finished with eight points on 4-for-4 shooting to go with game and season highs of 13 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Afterward, Joel Embiid referred to the 13th-year veteran as “the MVP of tonight.”
Embiid, who was a game-time decision after experiencing soreness and tightness in his left knee, added 15 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and two turnovers for his seventh double-double of the season.
The center was involved in perhaps the most exciting moment of the game. With 4 minutes, 13 seconds remaining, Embiid blocked Donovan Mitchell’s shot and yelled, “Get that [stuff] out of here” after Mitchell fell underneath the basket. Mitchell got up and shoved Embiid to the court. The crowd went crazy, chanting “MVP” and “Trust the Process.” The Jazz rookie was called for a technical foul.
“He just got up and fake-shoved me and I flopped,” said Embiid, recalling the incident. “Then he got a technical for it. That’s basically how it happened.
“But it was all fun. After the game, we shook hands.”
The Sixers were sluggish at the start.
They missed all eight of their three-point attempts and shot just 69.2 percent from the foul line in the first half. Yet, they were still up by 11 points (47-36) heading into the third quarter.
This was the first time the Sixers failed to make a three-pointer in the first half all season. Their previous low was three.
On Monday, the Sixers ended up missing their first nine before Redick’s 28-footer with 7:21 left in the third quarter made it a 62-42 advantage.
Mitchell led Utah with 17 points.
Both teams had a who’s who of players sidelined by injuries.
The Sixers’ Markelle Fultz (right shoulder soreness), Nik Stauskas (sprained right ankle), and Justin Anderson (shin splints) are still sidelined. Because of the injuries, the Sixers called up two-way guard Jacob Pullen from the Delaware 87ers.
Meanwhile, the Jazz were without Joe Johnson (sore right wrist), Dante Exum (left shoulder surgery), and Rudy Gobert (right tibia bruise).
A bit of Australian cuisine is now being sold at the Wells Fargo Center. In honor of Australian standout Simmons, the Sixers have a partnership with Australian pastry, sausage roll and meat-pie maker Four’N Twenty. The team began selling meat pies at select concession stands of the main concourse and mezzanine concourse during home games on Monday.
Sixers fan Mike Shelly, a senior at Marple Newtown High School, was on hand to ring the ceremonial pregame bell and view the game courtside after hitting a halfcourt shot Saturday. He met the Sixers players, received an official jersey, and will fly with the team to Atlanta for the March 30 game against the Hawks.
The 17-year-old was ruled cancer-free less than a year ago after being diagnosed with Stage 4 lymphoma several years ago. Shelly is also dealing with losing his older brother and best friend, Andrew, who was killed in a car accident in August.
Mike and his father, Michael, attend Sixers games as a way to celebrate his brother’s love for the team. On Monday, he received star treatment for his back story after being randomly selected Saturday to shoot the ball.