NBA

NBA League Pass Game of the Night: Top teams collide as Utah Jazz host Philadelphia 76ers

Get your popcorn ready!

The top team in the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers, close out their road trip with a blockbuster matchup against the top team in the Western Conference, the Utah Jazz, on Monday at 9:00 p.m. E.T.

Watch Jazz-76ers LIVE on NBA League Pass!

The 76ers (18-9) will be eager to grab a win, having lost their past two games, while the Jazz have put together yet another impressive win streak, winning their past seven games and 18 of their last 19. The Jazz are now 22-5 on the season, their best start in franchise history.

The Jazz have been blowing out teams with regularity this season thanks largely to their 3-point shooting, leading the NBA in 3-pointers made per game (16.7) and fourth in 3-point percentage (42.2), per NBA Stats.

While the Jazz picked up a 113-94 win over the Miami Heat in their previous game, the 76ers fell to the Phoenix Suns by a final score of 120-111 in their last outing. Tonight's matchup is set to create a playoff-like atmosphere, something 76ers veteran Danny Green says the team could use.

"We learn a lot more from losses," Green said. "So I guess we will have a lot more motivation ... I won't say easier, but it's better going into a building like that with a chip on your shoulder, a little more of an edge.

"So I think these wakeup calls is much needed, just coasting through, thinking we are going to win the game, because we're the 76ers, with the best team record in the East. That's not going happen."

Battle of the big men

Joel Embiid is listed as questionable for the matchup with back tightness ahead of a much-anticipated clash with Jazz centre Rudy Gobert.

The 76ers big man is putting together an MVP-calibre season, averaging 29.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 54.3 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from the 3-point line. He has been a force on the offensive end, scoring 25-plus points in his last 11 games, including 30-plus points in five of his past six.

Offensively, Embiid is making quicker decisions and demanding the ball in crunch time, and it's not just his dominance in the post or his improved 3-point shooting - Embiid has become near-unguardable from midrange.

Just look at those numbers:

Sure, the free-flowing Jazz are raining 3s and piling up the points, but their defence has been the unsung hero of their scorching run of late, thanks largely to the reliable play of two-time Defensive Player of the Year Gobert.

This season, Gobert is putting up 14.0 points and 13.4 rebounds per game while averaging 2.8 blocks, second in the NBA behind only Indiana's Myles Turner. The Jazz rank second in defensive rating this season, and Gobert leads the NBA in both defensive win shares and defensive rating.

Whichever big man gets going will go a long way to determining the winner of this game.

Simmons vs. Mitchell

Their Rookie of the Year beef from a couple years back feels like a lifetime ago, with both young stars now All-Stars, propelling their teams into title contention.

The Aussie holds a 5-1 head-to-head record against Mitchell, who is enjoying a monster campaign for the Jazz, averaging 27.8 points, 5.8 assists and 4.7 rebounds during their recent winning streak.

Head to Head: Ben Simmons vs. Donovan Mitchell (six games)
Player Wins PTS REB AST STL
Ben Simmons 5 13.7 9.0 6.5 2.7
Donovan Mitchell 1 20.2 3.3 3.3 2.2

Last week, Simmons told reporters after their game in Portland that he feels he is the best defender in the NBA. After coming up against the likes of De'Aaron Fox, Damian Lillard and Devin Booker on this road trip, it doesn't get any easier, coming up against one of the hottest players in the league.

"I take pride in guarding the best player on the floor every night," Simmons said. "It's not a one off thing. If you watch me [play], I'm typically guarding the best player. And typically the best players are guards, or shooting guards, whatever it is. And I love that. I love the fact that my teammates look at me and tell me 'you've got to go out and lock this guy up.'"

"There's nights that guys go off, it's going to happen. But most of the time I feel like I'm doing a good job and making the right plays. I feel like I'm the best defender in the NBA."

Containing Mitchell will be Simmons' primary concern, but the Jazz's equal-opportunity offence allows any player on any given night to be the team's leading scorer, with six players averaging in double figures.

In their final game of a four-game road trip, Mitchell and the Jazz will provide a big test defensively ... I mean, just look at how they move the ball!

Tune in on NBA League Pass for what is sure to be a playoff-like battle between the East and West's top teams.

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