SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Rebounding became a primary focus for the Utah Jazz after they struggled on the boards in two straight losses. It turned into an area of strength against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Donovan Mitchell had 24 points and eight assists as the Jazz beat Philadelphia 106-104 on Wednesday night thanks in large part to their effort on the glass. Utah had a 50-42 edge in rebounds over the Sixers, who were sixth in the NBA in rebounding through their first six games.
“We had great urgency on the boards,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “Obviously, it was something that our guys internalized. We watched film. Those are boxes you’re checking and our guys came to rebound.”
Bojan Bogdanovic added 20 points and Rudy Gobert had 14 points, 16 rebounds and three steals. Joe Ingles scored a season-high 16 off the bench for Utah.
The Jazz improved to 4-0 at home this season after holding the 76ers to one field goal over the final four minutes.
“We’ve had great stretches of defense throughout the entire year,” Mitchell said. “We’ve defended really well and this was another night of it, but we’ve got to keep going.”
Joel Embiid had 27 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Sixers, who have dropped two consecutive games after a 5-0 start that made them the last unbeaten team in the NBA. Josh Richardson added a season-high 24 points and Tobias Harris chipped in with 16.
Ben Simmons did not play in the second half because of right shoulder soreness after bumping into Royce O’Neale’s chest while posting up on a first-quarter play. Simmons finished with two points and two assists in 10 minutes.
Not having their point guard on the floor altered what the Sixers were able to do in terms of containing Utah’s top playmakers.
“Defense is where we felt the pain of not having him the most,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said.
The Sixers built a 44-36 early in the second quarter after Embiid scored on three straight possessions, capped by a step-back jumper. Utah chipped away at the deficit behind Bogdanovic, who scored 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the period.
The Jazz finally went ahead 55-51 when Bogdanovic knocked down a pair of shots and fed Gobert for an alley-oop dunk over three straight possessions.
Utah took control in the third behind hot shooting from Mitchell. He scored back-to-back baskets to spark a 12-2 run that gave the Jazz a 78-65 lead late in the quarter. Mitchell totaled four field goals and assisted on two others during the period.
Embiid hit four free throws over consecutive possessions to help trim Utah’s lead to 103-101 with 1:51 left. Bogdanovic drained a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to keep Philadelphia from taking the lead. It ended up being the only 3 the Jazz made during the quarter.
BACK IN ACTION
Embiid returned after serving a two-game suspension for fighting with Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns and logged his third double-double of the season. Embiid also brought back a contrite attitude on how his actions and absence affected the Sixers.
“Getting suspended is not great for me, or for the team, so it’s never going to happen again,” he said.
FREE THROW PARADE
Philadelphia shot 30 of 34 from the free throw line. Embiid led the way, going 16 of 18.
Utah was 16 for 24 at the line.
Snyder acknowledged his team’s aggressiveness on the boards resulted in the fouls piling up.
“They’re talented offensive players,” he said. “They put you in difficult positions where you can foul and it’s hard not to. I wish we could have been a little better keeping them off the line.”
FINDING A GROOVE
Mike Conley’s early shooting struggles are fading away. Conley is shooting 43.6% from the floor over his last four games after finishing with 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting against the Sixers. It’s a big step forward after he hit just 20% from the field over his first four games with the Jazz.
“I thought I had a good flow throughout the whole game, just knowing when my time was to be aggressive and when I was to be a decoy or cutting or whatever it was,” Conley said. “I’m just trying to figure out where my timing is and I think tonight was a good step.”
76ers: Richardson had his first 20-point game of the season. … Brown was whistled for a technical foul in the third quarter. … Raul Neto spent his first four NBA seasons with the Jazz. Neto finished with 11 points and a team-high four assists during his first game back in Utah after signing with the Sixers over the summer.
Jazz: Mitchell made his first four shots and scored 10 points in the opening quarter. … Gobert was whistled for a flagrant 1 foul in the third after swinging his arm out and hitting Richardson in the face. … Utah shot its first free throws with 2:28 left in the second quarter.
76ers: Play at Denver on Friday.
Jazz: Host the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday.