The Sixers' Christmas defeat to the Celtics put many of their flaws under a microscope. Everything from Ben Simmons' jumper to Brett Brown's late-game play calling to the team's thin bench was the cause of great consternation.
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Thursday night's 114-97 win over the Jazz was a reminder that, though there are underlying issues with the Sixers (23-13), there's still a lot to like about the team.
Ben Simmons notched his fifth triple-double of the season, with 13 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists. JJ Redick scored 24 points (8 for 12 shooting), and Joel Embiid had 23 points and 15 rebounds, his league-leading 31st double-double.
• The Sixers' offense stumbled out of the gates, missing their first six shots.
Simmons started 0 for 4, including an unsightly running hook shot that slammed hard off the backboard, while Landry Shamet air-balled his first jumper.
• The best moment in the opening quarter from the Sixers' offense was a beautiful after-timeout play call from Brett Brown.
The Sixers set up as if they were going to go run one of their favorites plays from Jimmy Butler, in which Butler makes an "Iverson cut" across two screens and gets the ball in isolation.
Instead of feeding Butler on the wing, T.J. McConnell passed it to Simmons at the elbow. Mike Muscala set a back screen for Butler, and the result was pretty for the Sixers.
Six of Butler's 18 points came on lobs - he got another one after a timeout in the third quarter, as Donovan Mitchell got blindsided by a screen from Landry Shamet.
• We saw two four-point plays in the first 14 minutes of the game. Jonah Bolden had a bad foul on an overzealous closeout of Kyle Korver with 7.3 seconds left in the first, and Korver fouled Redick from the left corner early in the second quarter.
• The Sixers played a 2-3 zone at times in the second quarter, a highly unusual strategy in the modern NBA. It'll be interesting to see if Brown employs it more moving forward as a means of mitigating the team's perimeter defense deficiencies.
• Simmons' lack of a dependable jumper is an unavoidable topic, but it so often overshadows how many other things he does well on the basketball court.
There just aren't many other 6-foot-10 players in the league who have this blend of ball handling and athleticism.
And hey, he did take two fadeaway jumpers in the 12-15 foot range Thursday, and he made one in the fourth quarter.
• Donovan Mitchell (23 points) outscored Simmons, but he didn't do much besides score.
In his two games against the Sixers this season, he has three assists and 55 field goal attempts.
There weren't too many individual duels between Simmons, last season's Rookie of the Year winner, and Mitchell, the runner-up who was notoriously skeptical of Simmons' rookie status. Simmons did have an impressive steal on Mitchell in the third quarter, sprinting from far behind to knock the ball free.
• The Sixers' bench turned in a much, much better performance than against the Celtics, with 33 points. T.J. McConnell (10 points, seven assists) led the way.
• After shooting 5 for 16 from the floor, missing two free throws, and seeing his potential game-winning jumper at the end of regulation rim out on Christmas, Redick had a nice bounce-back game.
He nailed two three-pointers from the left wing during a decisive 21-5 Sixers run early in the third period.
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