Utah dances with the Sixers

Duel between the leader of the East and the West and the new ride of the Jazz, who add their eighth straight victory and the 19th in the last 20 games. Embiid did not play.


The Jazz continue to do their thing. Nobody seems to be able to stop them and they are in one of the best streaks in their history, adding victories almost accidentally and ending rivals of any type of entity. So far, on their second sizable winning streak, they are going eight in a row. The previous one was 11; in between, a single loss against the Nuggets in Colorado that cut the flurry but not the good dynamics, since the games won have continued to be the usual trend for a team that in recent years has set good records in the regular season, but that threatens to break the odd record in the current one. At the moment, there are 19 victories in the last 20 games, something they haven't seen for a long time. And we will be left without seeing the real dimension of some milestone more difficult to overcome, due to the variation of the calendar, reduced to 82 games and that will prevent us from seeing where the true ceiling of this team is. Although, of course, this will really be seen in a playoffs in which, in the Quin Snyder era on the bench, they have not been able to overcome the second round, a challenge that they have achieved up to two times and that they threaten to overcome this year. Above all, if they play in the final phase with the dominance and forcefulness they are showing at this time of the course.

The latest victim of their dominance has been the Sixers, in a duel between Conference leaders that has fallen to the West side. Leaders because they are first, of course, although the record is quite different in each case: Philly remains with a correct 18-10 after the defeat, while Utah goes to an extraordinary 23-5, which before this spectacular streak was of ... 4-4. This is how they started in Salt Lake City, with many doubts that they have left behind and that allows them to lead an always competitive West and that, despite the theoretical improvement of the East, is still better. What's more, the Sixers, first in their Conference, would be fifth in the West, one more sign of how weakened that sector is, which even with teams like the Celtics, Sixers or the all-powerful Nets lag behind in terms of number of victories. What's more, the last two finalists, Raptors and Heat, are struggling not to be left out of the playoffs and are far from the top spots: Canadians, now residents of the United States because of the coronavirus, are eighth with a record of 12- fifteen; Miami, worse still, an 11-16 that leaves them tenths. That is: problems.

Of course, against Philadelphia there was an unexpected hero who allowed them to start a new victory: Jordan Clarkson. The point guard, who went through the Lakers and then Ohio, came to the Jazz last year with excellent results and made a very good fit in the squad, starting from the bench and averaging 15.6 points per game. This year he is going to more than 17, seriously opposing the award for Best Sixth Man and being the leader of the bench, from which he has come out in 68 of the 70 games he has played since he came to the Jazz. Against the Sixers, Clarkson had the best performance of the season and probably of his sports career: 40 points, with 13 of 20 in shooting from the field, 8 of 13 in triples and 6 of 7 in free throws, an extraordinary shooting series that has tipped the balance for a team that received 42 points in the first period but entrenched in defense in the next three, in which they did not allow more than 29 points. The Jazz went ahead at halftime (72-66), increased the lead in the third quarter (106-94) and controlled that lead until the end of the crash.

The Sixers didn't have Joel Embiid and they noticed. Tobias Harris was in charge of keeping his team with 36 points and 10 rebounds. He did it accompanied by the best version of Ben Simmons, who went to 42 points. 9 rebounds and 12 assists in a scandal game that could not end in victory. The absence of Embiid, by the way, gave more prominence to Howard, who had a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds. And in the Jazz, as always, a bit of everything: 24 for Mitchell (his season average), 20 for English, 11 + 9 for Gobert, 11 for O'Neale, as many for Bogdanovic, 8 for Favors, a 18 of 45 in triples and a lot of power on both sides of the court. And a hero as unexpected as he deserved, that Clarkson who has found his place in Utah and who has been the best player, during a game, on the best team in the NBA. One whose ceiling is uncertain (no one knows how long this will last), but which threatens a Western Conference whose dominance seemed reserved for the two Los Angeles teams. At the moment, they continue to add victories. And they go on, on, on, on ... 444 444

Photos from as.com

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