Sixers Close Out Utah Summer League with OT Loss to Jazz


Although the Sixers won their previous game against the Celtics in the Utah Summer League, it was a brutal game of basketball to watch. Summer league games are usually ugly and tend drag on, but that game tested the limits of ‘professional’ basketball.

Luckily for everyone, Thursday night was a nice refreshment of sort-of-exciting summer league basketball, as the Sixers fell short in overtime to the Jazz by a score of 84-78.

For the third game in a row, Sixers fans had their eyes focused on Jahlil Okafor. The third overall pick in this past draft finished with 11 points (5-for-11 FG), six rebounds, and three assists. His overall performance could be best described as inconsistent,  while drawing a lot of comparisons to his first game on Monday.

He struggled to get going early as he could not get deep post position and no one on the Sixers seemed interested in trying to get him the ball on the low block.

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Just like his first game, Okafor picked up his game offensively when the second half rolled around. He had an impressive drive to the rim from the foul-line area and he also made a nice left-to-right spin on the right block to shake his defender and create an open angle to the basket.

Okafor made his most impressive play of the night came in the fourth quarter when he patiently surveyed the court in the midst of a double team, only to rip through and spin away from the defenders to free himself up a look at the rim. Jah also showed off his superb passing skills by throwing a couple of delicious dimes out of the post.

Jahlil’s struggles in the Sixers loss were reoccurring ones from the previous game. The most obvious, and pressing, is his mobility on the defensive end. Okafor was getting exposed on pick and roll after pick and roll by the Jazz, as he was too late to recover on a number of easy baskets at the rim. On offense his main struggle has been trying to do too much.

While a lot of that has to do with the Sixers inability to get him deep catches, Okafor is still forcing a lot as evidenced by his six turnovers.

With three summer league games in the book, it is apparent as to what Okafor needs to work on. When he is put in an actual NBA offense that surrounds him with shooters, Jah should have more deep catch opportunities with a lot more room to operate. With that being said, his first three summer league games have not concerned me about his offensive potential moving forward.

His defensive game is what needs a substantial amount of work on. The Sixers coaching staff needs to work with Okafor on how to play and recover on a pick and roll. Finally, Jah might need to go through the ‘Nerlens Noel shot reboot’ to improve his free throw shooting.

There were a couple of other players that stood out in the Sixers’ Utah Summer League finale. As the Sixers try to mold Jerami Grant into a small forward, he has struggled to get into a rhythm in any of the first two games. Last night Grant got off to a hot start by knocking down an early three, banking in an acrobatic drive at the rim, and making this poster:

After having a career-type performance against the Celtics, Furkan Aldemir followed it up with a 15-rebound game. Unfortunately he did not knock down any threes, but he did play solid defense in the paint. Jordan McRae posted a team-high 19 points, but he wound up attempting 16 shots and only connecting on one of his seven threes.

McRae has flashed some potential with his ability to get into the second level of the defense and to the free throw line in these past three games, but he has failed to put up efficient scoring numbers.

Finally, shout out to T.J. McConnell who had another solid showing while running the Sixers offense and will play for the team in Las Vegas as well. McConnell is not flashy nor a scorer, but he competes on defense, runs the offense through, and is a really smart, skilled passer. He also seemed to be the only player interested in getting Okafor touches in the post.

So the Sixers will pack up in Utah and move onto Las Vegas, where they are scheduled to face off against D’Angelo Russell (sad face) and the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night at 8:30. Those from the Utah trip joining the team inclues Jahlil Okafor, Jordan McRae, Richaun Holmes, Jean-Pierre Tokoto, and T.J. McConnell.

They will join Pierre Jackson, JaKarr Sampson, (maybe) Nik Stauskas, and others.