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Jan 31, 2024 7:43 pm

Sixers limp into Utah for finale of rough 5-game trip vs. Jazz

The Utah Jazz and Philadelphia 76ers will try to turn things around when they face each other Thursday night in Salt Lake City.

The Jazz defeated a Joel Embiid-less Sixers squad on the road, 120-109, on Jan. 6 thanks to double-doubles from Lauri Markkanen (33 points, 13 rebounds) and Collin Sexton (22 points, 10 assists).

Embiid will sidelined Thursday, according to an ESPN report Wednesday night, and was expected to undergo an MRI on his left knee after suffering an injury late in Tuesday’s 119-107 loss to the Golden State Warriors. Embiid’s knee was hurt when it was inadvertently fallen on by the Warriors’ Jonathan Kuminga after the Sixers star fell to the court with four minutes remaining.

A six-time All-Star center and the 2022-23 Most Valuable Player, Embiid leads the league with a 35.3 scoring average and also averages 11.3 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and a career-high 5.7 assists.

“We obviously want him to be healthy,” Tobias Harris, who led Philadelphia with 26 points and 10 rebounds vs. the Warriors, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “And you know, just a tough, tough go-around today.

“Obviously, you can tell he’s not playing 100 percent in terms of health. So you know, we know as a whole group we need him to be healthy so we can be successful and, obviously, just take care of his body and get right.”

This will be the fifth and final game of a lengthy road trip for Philadelphia, which comes in on a four-game losing streak following losses at Indiana, Denver, Portland and Golden State.

Philadelphia has played the past three games without Tyrese Maxey, who’s been sidelined with a sprained left ankle, and Nicolas Batum was held out Tuesday with left hamstring tightness for precautionary purposes.

“We’re close with him,” Sixers coach Nick Nurse of Maxey. “I was hoping he was going to make it (Tuesday) when he didn’t play last night. We thought we’d have him tonight, but it didn’t work out that way. I would imagine (in) a couple more days he should be ready to go.”

The Jazz aren’t dealing with any major injuries, but they have come back to earth since they were the hottest team in the NBA during a stretch in December and January.

Utah, which won 12 of 14 games from Dec. 21-Jan. 15, has lost five of its past seven. The Jazz beat only the lowly Wizards and Hornets during their just-concluded six-game Eastern road trip.

Utah comes into this matchup having lost back-to-back games in New York against the Brooklyn Nets (147-114) and Knicks (118-103).

“We’re just not doing a good enough job of being physical,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “And this is two nights in a row where a team has made us pay for it.”

The Jazz trailed 61-60 in the third quarter against New York after a Sexton 3-pointer, but the Knicks then went on a 30-6 run to blow the game open.

Hardy self-deprecatingly told reporters, “I hate myself right now.” But the losses and execution flaws are weighing on him.

“I don’t feel good,” he said. “I don’t think I did a good job, believe me.”

Hardy believes his team needs to work out some kinks in a non-game setting.

“I’m excited that we get to get home and have a practice,” Hardy said. “Just get back to work and do some of the things that are hard to do when you’re on a long road trip. It’s time to get back to Utah.”

– Field Level Media

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