Gobert, Jazz Stifle Sixers in 109-84 Victory

Rudy Gobert and the Utah Jazz stifled the 76ers offense, holding the Sixers to 40 percent shooting from the field and forcing them into 18 turnovers on the night.

Sixers center Jahlil Okafor drives against Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert in the Sixers 109-84 loss at the Wells Fargo Center | Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Sixers center Jahlil Okafor drives against Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert in the Sixers 109-84 loss at the Wells Fargo Center | Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers continued their slide to start the season, falling to the Utah Jazz by a score of 109-84 Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

The loss dropped the Sixers to 0-6 on the season, and the Sixers have now lost 43 consecutive games in October and November stretched over the past four seasons. Their last win prior to December 1st occurred on November 22nd, 2013. Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes combined for 52 points in that game.

The Sixers used a 4-0 run to start the third quarter and within 5 points, 52-47, after Joel Embiid sank two free-throws with 10:46 remaining in the third quarter. Unfortunately Embiid would pick up his 3rd and 4th fouls just moments later, forcing the Sixers to turn to their struggling bench and slowing down their momentum. The Jazz then used a methodical 10-0 run in the middle of the third quarter to blow the game open, and the 76ers never got close after that.

Despite being without starting point guard George Hill and on the tail end of a back-to-back, the Jazz defense was too much for the 76ers to handle, holding the Sixers to just 40.3 percent shooting from the field and forcing Brett Brown‘s squad into 18 turnovers on the night, 8 more than Utah.

The game featured a marquee big man matchup, with Joel Embiid (18.5 points, 6.3 rebounds per game entering the contest) going up against Rudy Gobert, one of the most disruptive defensive players in the game today.

Gobert frustrated Embiid early, forcing the third-year rookie into contested shots down low and game-high 5 turnovers as he struggled to bully his way inside.

Embiid noted before the game that he was going to try to take less jump shots and try to be physical with Utah’s big men. While that strategy had mixed returns, Embiid was able to get Gobert in foul trouble for most of the second half. Gobert picked up his 4th personal foul just 14 seconds into the third quarter and ended up playing just 20 minutes on the night before fouling out, a situation Embiid was never really able to capitalize on because of his own second-half foul troubles.

While Embiid finished the night with a solid line of 14 points, 9 rebounds, and a blocked shot, foul problems limited the rookie to just 19 minutes of action, falling well short of his 24-minute time limit the 76ers were aiming for.

Even with Gobert limited to just 20 minutes of playing time, his impact on the game was substantial.

Gobert finished the night with totals of just 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots in his 20 minutes of action, but the Jazz outscored the Sixers 53-33 while Gobert was on the court, with the Sixers shooting just 36.4 percent and scoring at a rate of just 83.8 points per 100 possessions in the 20 minutes Gobert played. The Sixers shot just 30.8 percent on shots at the rim when Gobert was on the court, compared to 52.4 percent when Gobert was on the bench.

The Sixers offensive production during Mondays' 109-84 loss when Rudy Gobert was on the court.

The Sixers offensive production during Monday’s 109-84 loss when Rudy Gobert was on the court.

“I think that he got to everybody,” head coach Brett Brown said about Gobert. “They are an excellent defensive team. You saw it from their backcourt disrupting our point guards. You saw it with their interior defense with 11 blocked shots as a team. They’re a good defensive team.”

With Gobert as a last line of defense Utah’s guards were able to dig down on Embiid and force him to play in traffic, something Embiid struggled with.

“They were digging a lot when I had the ball in the post, and they have a good shot blocker behind,” Embiid said. “They’re a good defensive team, so I’m sure they had a game plan and they followed it pretty well.”

Embiid’s overall game was a mixed bag. He controlled the glass, hauling down 28.6 percent of the available offensive and 25 percent of the available defensive rebounds while he was on the court. He pulled off a beautiful driving fake that led to a hook shot, drew fouls with his activity, and sank 6 of his 9 free-throw attempts.

On the other hand, Embiid struggled to neutralize Utah’s efficient pick and roll attack and struggled with Utah’s swarming defensive schemes on the other end of the court, a reality he is going to have to deal with more and more as teams key in on taking away the Sixers lone reliable offensive option. He committed a turnover on nearly 30 percent of his offensive possessions against the Jazz, a crippling number that the Jazz used to ignite their own offense. It was perhaps the first big indication that Embiid’s is, after all, just a rookie with very limited basketball experience.

“There are lots of times where it’s clear that he is still a young man that hasn’t played basketball for two and a half years and is finding his feet, all wrapped up in this big frame with a hell of a lot of talent,” Brown concluded about Embiid’s play.

With Embiid limited by foul trouble backup center Jahlil Okafor was featured offensively, finishing with 15 points on 7-14 shooting to go along with 4 rebounds in 22 minutes of action.

Still, the Jazz attacked Okafor and the Sixers relentlessly in the pick and roll, scoring on each of the first 6 pick and roll possessions they tasked Okafor with defending. On the night, the Jazz scored 28 points on 17 pick and roll possessions Okafor defended, with Gordon Hayward (20 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) and Rodney Hood (18 points, 7-13 shooting) getting wherever and whatever they wanted.

Sixers pick and roll defense against the Utah Jazz on Monday, November 7th, 2016.

“They’re a really good pick and roll team. That was one of our many issues that we did have tonight,” Okafor said after the game. “(We need) better communication.”

One of the few positives in the game for the Sixers was Robert Covington, who connected on 4 of 5 field goal attempts for his 12 points, including 3-of-4 from downtown. Covington entered the game shooting just under 17 percent from three-point range on the young season.

“Shooters shoot. And I’m convinced it will play out,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said before the game when talking about Covington’s struggles. “He’s been one of our better defensive players once it’s a half court game. I just think that for Robert you keep encouraging him. Ultimately shooters will end up balancing out. He’ll get to a high percentage, I believe.”

“Me and coach had a meeting and just watched film,” Covington said after the game. “He just told me to stay confident. (Your) shot’s going to fall.

“Everybody was talking to me throughout the day and just told me to go out and play my game,” Covington concluded.

Odds and Ends

  • Embiid’s foul troubles led to Richaun Holmes getting 5 minutes of playing time, albeit all in the second half of the game. Holmes was a DNP-CD Saturday night against Cleveland.
  • The Jazz destroyed the Sixers despite being on the final half of a back-to-back. The Jazz beat the Knicks, in New York, on Sunday afternoon.
  • George Hill, who is averaging 20.4 points per game for the Jazz on the young season, missed the game with a sprained right thumb. Shelvin Mack (8 points, 5 assists, 1 turnover) started in his place.
  • Sergio Rodriguez (6 points, 3-9 shooting, 5 assists, 3 turnovers) and T.J. McConnell (0 points, 0-2 shooting) really struggled with the pressure from the Jazz perimeter defenders.
  • Ersan Ilyasova shot just 2-12 from the field, including 1-5 from three-point range, for his 10 points.
  • The Sixers scored just 6 fast break points on the game, compared to 15 for the Jazz. The Sixers were also outscored 48-34 in the paint.

Next up: Wednesday, 7 PM @ Indiana (3-4)

Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.