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The Lonesome Crappy West: Sixers Face Jazz in Utah

Dec 30, 2011, 4:35 PM EDT

The Philadelphia 76ers visit the Jazz in Utah for a chance to go over .500 for the first time this year.

The Sixers made short work of the Phoenix Suns at US Airways on
Wednesday, bringing them back to 1-1 for the season. (By the way, the
Blazers look like they might be more awesome than we expected, winning
each of their first three games—including one last night against the
red-hot Nuggets—so maybe we shouldn’t even feel too bad about that close
first loss.) With the Celtics looking a mite flustered at the bottom of
the East standings (even losing to the rebuilding Hornets playing
without Eric Gordon), and the Knicks still very much looking like a
project in their first three games, the Atlantic Division suddenly seems
much more open than expected, and with a couple games coming up against
average to subpar West teams, the Sixers can quickly move to the top of
said division.

Tonight’s West team of choice is the Utah Jazz, off to a 0-2 start after
getting thumped by the Lakers in LA and the Nuggets at home. They’re
probably not as bad as their first two games suggest, but they’re likely
lottery bound in 2012 after having said goodbye to four players in the
last 18 months—Carlos Boozer, Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko and
Mehmet Okur—who had defined the franchise for the last half-decade or
so. Now they’re retooling with a lot of veteran guards and highly-touted
but extremely raw big men, including the #3 picks in each of the last
two drafts, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, neither of whom have made
much of an impact in the Jazz’s first two games.

Nonetheless, the new-look Jazz have history on their side when it comes
to the Sixers. In the 22 games that the Sixers have played in Utah since
the ’88-’89 season, the Jazz have won all but two, including each of
the last six. Even last year after the Deron Williams trade, the Jazz
were able to steal a W from the Sixers after Jodie Meeks missed a key
free throw late and CJ Miles hit a shot to send the game into overtime,
where they eventually won. If the Sixers want to break that trend,
they’ll need a strong showing (especially defensively) from their big
men against the sizable Jazz, including the seemingly much-improved
Spencer Hawes, who has grabbed double-digit rebounds in two straight
games—something he only managed to do twice all last year.

9:00 tip from EnergySolutions Arena. It took the Sixers 59 games last
year to peek their heads above .500, to do so in just three games this
year would be a real step in the right direction for the guys. Gotta
keep pace with those world-beating 1-1 Raptors, at least.