Markkanen, Sexton have double-doubles to lead Utah past the 76ers 120-109 with Embiid out

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Saturday, January 6, 2024

PHILADELPHIA -- - The 76ers need a better plan to win games without Joel Embiid.

The NBA MVP is hurting - and Philadelphia suffers just as much when Embiid can't play because he's injured.

The 76ers are now just 2-6 without Embiid after Lauri Markkanen and Collin Sexton had double-doubles to lead the Utah Jazz to a 120-109 victory on Saturday night.

"We have Joel, we know what Joel is going to bring to the table," Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey said. "Without him, we've got to find different ways and different guys have to got to step up, myself included, and help us win games."

Embiid missed the game because of swelling in his left knee. Without an elite rim protector in the lineup, the Jazz scored 72 points in the paint.

Markkanen had 33 points and 13 rebounds, and Sexton added 22 points and 10 assists to spark the Jazz to just their sixth road win of the season and fourth win in five games overall. The Jazz were coming off a 29-point loss a night earlier at Boston.

"Last night was tough, but it tells a lot about our group to be able to refocus and come here locked in," Markkanen said. "For the most part, we were doing the right things."

The 76ers not only suffered a 36-point defeat to the Knicks on Friday, they lost Embiid and also Tobias Harris to an ankle injury. The Sixers also played without key rotation players De'Anthony Melton (lumbar spine soreness) and Robert Covington (illness).

Maxey led the 76ers with 25 points and Kelly Oubre Jr. had 24.

"Even though you're missing whatever, five guys, those guys can collectively play together better than that," coach Nick Nurse said. "They can execute better, they can defend better than that. They can make those open shots. There was plenty of shots to step into and make."

The numbers were rough: Nic Batum missed all five 3s. Oubre and Maxey missed a combined 14 of 16 3s. Maxey only shot 9 of 24 overall from the floor. The Sixers had four offensive rebounds in the second half.

"When you're short-handed, you've got to play better than that," Nurse said.

Embiid's absence was, of course, quite significant. Not only because of what his presence means to the Sixers, but Embiid could put himself at risk at becoming ineligible to win major NBA awards.

The new collective bargaining agreement requires players, in most instances, to play in 65 regular-season games to be eligible for awards such as MVP or the All-NBA teams. Embiid has only met that threshold twice, when he played a career-best 68 games in 2021-22, and 66 games last season. He missed the last four games of December with a sprained right ankle.

The absences forced Nurse to try some oddball lineups. The Sixers opened the second quarter with Pat Beverley, KJ Martin, Oubre., Batum and Mo Bamba on the court.

The 7-foot Markkanen took advantage of his considerable size advantage to make 12 of 19 shots from the floor. He hit a 3-pointer in the fourth to cut off a small Sixers rally and push the lead to 105-91. Sexton hit consecutive baskets late in the game for a 15-point lead and the Sixers crowd booed headed into a timeout.

The Jazz gave the Sixers an early taste of how they tied a franchise record with 154 points in an overtime win over Detroit on Wednesday. They made 13 of 20 shots in the first quarter before they resumed a normal pace and led 58-57 at the break.

John Collins scored 19 points for Utah and Jordan Clarkson had 18. Utah had 24 turnovers.

"Every possession, I felt we got better," Clarkson said. "I know we always say together and communicate but that's the only way to win in the league."

UP NEXT

Jazz play Monday at Milwaukee.

76ers: Embiid and Harris can rest up with the 76ers off until Wednesday's game in Atlanta.

"We're going to get in there and it's going to be a physical practice on Monday," Nurse said.

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