By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor
The Sixers would wrap up the first half of the schedule on Wednesday night in a rematch with the Utah Jazz. This matchup had high expectations with both teams being at full strength this time around, and it did not disappoint.
Joel Embiid would send the game into overtime after hitting a huge three-pointer in the closing seconds to tie the game. After that, they would take full control in overtime and come away with a 131-123 victory.
Here are some takeaways from the overtime thriller between the conference leaders.
Three-point shooting was a major disparity when these teams faced off in Utah, and the same would happen Wednesday night. The Jazz would light it up from three all night while the Sixers couldn't buy a bucket from deep for three quarters.
Utah would almost hit triple the amount of threes as the Sixers, netting 21 of their 44 attempts. The Sixers would hit just eight threes in the contest, with one of them coming from Dwight Howard.
Things would change in the second half for the Sixers once they got their second three to fall. This could also be attributed to their increase in attempts. After attempting just eight threes in the first half the Sixers would get up 17 shots from deep in the final two quarters and make seven of them.
Although the Sixers were able to pull this one out, the struggles and lack of three-point shooting at times are still concerning. Getting consistent attempts from deep should be a major point of emphasis from this team in the second half of the season.
Up-and-down play from the bench
The play of the second unit has been another key area for the Sixers in recent weeks. They would struggle early in this game but would start a surge in the second half that would swing the momentum back in the Sixers' favor.
Doc Rivers continues to roll out all-bench lineups in his rotations despite their struggles. They would continue to struggle to create good looks on offense and it would allow Utah to extend their lead.
Things would change towards the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter for this second unit. After an incredible stretch of plays from Dwight Howard where he would record a block, steal, and made three, the bench unit got just the spark they needed.
After that, Shake Milton and Furkan Korkmaz would hit some shots of their own, and just like that the Sixers were back within striking distance. Rivers would say after the game that this run really turned things around for the team.
This performance from the second unit should be something to hang their hat on. They finish off the first half of the schedule with back-to-back impressive performances, giving them the momentum they need to hit the ground running in the second half.
Tobias Harris stepping up when it matters
Tobias Harris would make his return to the lineup against Utah after missing two games with a right knee contusion. He would be pretty quiet for most of this game but asserted himself when needed most.
Harris would end the night with 22 points, with 13 of those points coming in the fourth quarter and overtime. His ability to go at mismatches when Joel Embiid was double-teamed was crucial for the Sixers in this win.
This performance can be added to the multiple instances when Harris has pulled off a big performance in the final quarter to help seal a win. Critics have said this team still needs a closer to be elite, but Harris has shown time and time again this season he can make plays for this team late in games.
Making plays down the stretch
Arguably the biggest takeaway from this game is the Sixers' play on both ends down the stretch. Their ability to get clean looks on offense was great, but what stood out the most was just how dominant their defense is when locked in.
The Jazz shot around 50% from the floor and three for most of this game, but couldn't get anything going in overtime. Between Ben Simmons patrolling the perimeter and Embiid anchoring the defense at the rim, Utah couldn't generate a clean look. They would score only five points in the overtime period, shooting just 1-10.
Before the game, Doc Rivers said he feels this team could be the top team defensively when the season is over, and they showed it in overtime. With Simmons and Embiid playing at this level on defense, this team is going to be able to get stops against anyone.
Between Embiid's ability to dominate anywhere on the floor and the defensive ceiling of this group, the Sixers are going to be a very tough team to beat down the stretch in close games.