PHILADELPHIA (AP) — James Ennis III hit a 3 and dropped for three pushups, celebratory calisthenics in an early run in which the 76ers flexed their offensive muscle
“I wanted to get a little workout in,” Ennis said.
Ennis passed the fitness test and Tobias Harris scored 26 points to keep Philadelphia perfect at home with a 103-94 win over the Utah Jazz on Monday night.
Al Horford scored 17 points to help the Sixers win for the eighth time in nine games and improve to 10-0 at home. A night after the Raptors led the Jazz by 40 points at halftime, the Sixers led by a more modest 18 points at the break — a cushion needed late to secure the win against Utah.
“We say every game before we get out there to protect our house,” Harris said. “Our crowd, our energy, our atmosphere, it’s real.”
Ennis, Philly’s super sub, had the crowd going wild in the first half when he was fouled on a 3 and did three quick pushups to stretch the lead to 26 points. Ennis missed the free throw but it hardly mattered at home. The Sixers made 13 3s and have started to play more like a team expected to contend for an Eastern Conference title than one that slogged through a 2-5 stretch in mid-November.
“It’s in the moment,” Ennis said. “I didn’t mean nothing by it. And one.”
Horford did his part, scoring five baskets in the first quarter for 12 points, to go with one ridiculous block. Bojan Bogdanovic took a turnover the other way and went straight down the middle for a layup attempt, when a hustling Horford caught up from the right and twisted his body for the rejection.
They blocked, they exercised, they alley-ooped.
Matisse Thybulle turned a steal into an alley-oop dunk for Ben Simmons and Harris came right back for a 3 that made it 52-27, a game the Sixers had in control until a late push by the Jazz got them within single digits.
“It’s nice until they make a run,” Simmons said. “They’re always going to fight.”
Rudy Gobert led the Jazz with 27 points.
The glaring blemish for the 76ers was another off-night for All-Star center Joel Embiid. Four games after Embiid went scoreless (0 for 11) against Toronto, he scored 16 points on just 5-of-13 shooting. Embiid played 29 minutes and continued to defy the load management expectations that had been set in recent seasons for the oft-injured big man. He looked gassed at the end of the fourth, right when the Jazz made a push to close within 10 with 4 minutes left. Joel Engles made it 99-92 on a 3-pointer with 57 seconds left to make it a bit uneasy for the Sixers before it dragged to its inevitable conclusion.
“There’s a lot of teams, I think, in that situation that wouldn’t have responded the way this team did,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
Jazz: G Mike Conley left in the second half with a tight left hamstring.
76ers: G Joel Richardson sat out due to right hamstring tightness, and G Trey Burke missed the game with an upper respiratory infection. … Simmons had four steals and Thybulle had three. … Brown was hit with a technical in the first half.
The Jazz trailed by 26 early to make a late run — highlighted by a 28-18 edge in the fourth — nearly futile.
“You’re in the hole like that, you look up and it can be overwhelming,” Snyder said. “I’m not trying to spin this like we’re rejoicing what happened tonight. We’ve got to play better. There are things we can do better. We’re going to improve. I feel good about that prospect given the fact we saw how we responded.”
Jazz: The Jazz return home to host the Lakers on Wednesday night.
76ers: Play Thursday at Washington.