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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — It’s no secret that Joel Embiid likes to talk. “I love talking trash. That’s my nature. But it’s all fun and jokes,” Embiid said.
Embiid has been avoiding making waves on social media lately but when he noticed that Utah fans had plenty to say, he just couldn’t help himself.
“I can’t let people just talk trash to me, I got to talk and back it up,” said Embiid, who had 23 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks to help the Philadelphia 76ers cruise past the Jazz, 114-97 on Thursday night.
“With the help of my teammates, we backed it up on the court and that allowed me to express myself.”
JJ Redick helped Embiid say whatever he wanted by scoring 24 points and his shooting opened the court for the big man.
Ben Simmons, who was selected over Utah’s Donovan Mitchell as Rookie of the Year last season and heard boos whenever he touched the ball, had his fifth triple-double of the season with 13 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists.
“Ben spoke with his play,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. “He was dominant.”
When Simmons lobbed the ball to Jimmy Butler for a dunk and his 10th assist, he exchanged words with some fans on the baseline.
“I got a triple-double,” he yelled.
“I love being able to come into an arena and hear boos and chants and see signs and then win by 20. There’s nothing better than that,” Simmons said.
Mitchell scored 23 points, Dante Exum added a season-high 20 and Rudy Gobert had 17 points and 15 rebounds for the Jazz.
“I think our offense kind of affected our defense tonight,” Mitchell said. “They had many transition opportunities and a lot of transition buckets.”
Embiid, who has a league-leading 31 double-doubles, and Gobert both had bright moments in the post but the Jazz let Redick get loose for six 3-pointers.
“I was patient. I got a couple looks in transition, but other than that I was just making good reads and one-dribble 3-pointers leaning one way or the other,” Redick said, while joking he made his first spin move since 2015.
Butler scored 19 points.
The 76ers (23-13) were able to disrupt the Jazz offensive sets and force them into shots they don’t usually take. Utah shot 38 percent from the field.
On the other end, crisp passing and constant movement off the ball kept the 76ers one step ahead all night. Utah came into the game with the best defensive rating over the last 10 games, per NBA stats, but the 76ers shot 50 percent and racked up 31 assists.
“Usually when we make a mistake, we cover it up quick,” Gobert said. “Tonight I feel we just weren’t getting to the next play … we got stuck in the past.”
Embiid and Redick each had 10 points in the second quarter as the 76ers shot 75 percent in the period to turn a seven-point deficit into a 57-52 halftime lead.
The 24-8 run continued through much of the third quarter and Philadelphia led 76-60 after Mike Muscala sank a 3-pointer. The Jazz never got within 15 points the rest of the way.
According to the Brown, the difference was Embiid’s voice — just in a different way than most people recognize.
“If you mic’ed him up for the game, just listen to his voice. He’s our commander in chief, behind the scenes,” Brown said. “He does it with authority and an element of intellect.”
WHO IS THE REAL DEFENSIVE POY?
Embiid said the Defensive Player of Year award is the one he covets more than any other honor. “I want to be a complete player,” he said. “There’s not a lot of guys that do it at both ends. It’s hard.”
Brown thinks his big man is on his way. “I think we’re all seeing the impact Joel Embiid has defensively,” Brown said. “In my opinion he is the Defensive Player of the Year … his impact on this team is overwhelming.”
76ers: The Sixers shot 14 free throws in the third quarter (making 12) after shooting just two free throws in the entire first half. … Redick had a four-point play in the second quarter. … With 4:21 to play, Embiid fouled out just one point shy of 3,000 in his career when he fell and took out Rubio’s legs on a play that looked like a diving football tackle.
Jazz: Kyle Korver beat the shot clock and was fouled for a four-point play of his own in the first quarter, when he scored 10 points. … Gobert has 30 double-doubles. … The Jazz had 16 turnovers that led 26 points for Philadelphia.
76ers: Continue their five-game road trip at Portland on Sunday night.
Jazz: Host the New York Knicks on Saturday night.