Tell us how you really feel about Joel Embiid sitting out Tuesday night’s Jazz-76ers match-up.
“To be honest him, I think they might overprotect him,” Rudy Gobert said while shrugging his shoulders after Tuesday’s shootaround. “If you’ve got a player [and] you want him to get better, you want him to play against the best defenses, the best inside defensive players.”
Gobert didn’t hide his feelings about Embiid, the No. 2 overall pick in 2014, missing a one-on-one as he gets doctor-recommended rest against Utah (5-5). Embiid has played only 39 games in his career, which has been marred by injury, and the Sixers (5-4) would rather exercise caution than put out their 20-point, 10-rebound center against Gobert, the NBA’s leading shot-blocker.
So no, the big-time matchup in the paint won’t happen at Vivint Smart Home Arena when Philadelphia rolls into town, but Embiid’s absence won’t do anything to dampen one of the Sixers’ most notable attributes: speed.
Led by another top pick, Ben Simmons at point guard, the Sixers average the fourth-most possessions in the NBA (102.3). They’re also one of the better teams in effective field goal percentage (53.0, seventh in NBA) thanks to good 3-point shooting boosted by Robert Covington and J.J. Reddick.
The 6-foot-10 Simmons is particularly problematic. He averages 8.2 assists per game and can run transition well. His passing ability allows him to find outlets when defenses attempt to pressure him. He’s helped the Sixers reel off four straight wins.
The Jazz are seeking a bounce-back win after two consecutive losses, including a drubbing by the Houston Rockets on Sunday. Jazz coach Quin Snyder said getting back in transition defense will be critical to Utah’s winning formula Tuesday night.
“You’ve got to react, you’ve got to be urgent getting back when they’re coming back,” he said. “It’s hard to be physical with a guy dribbling the ball without fouling. I think we have to try to be disruptive, but we have to be disciplined.”
The Sixers also have said Jerryd Bayless (wrist) is going to sit out Tuesday’s game. Ekpe Udoh was listed as probable with lower leg soreness in Utah’s injury report.