Best in the East Meets Best in the West

by Lauren Rosen

After the 76ers topped the West-leading Lakers on Jan. 27, Monday brings another battle between the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers (18-9), and the current best in the West - the 22-5 Utah Jazz.

The Sixers will look to even up their four-game Western Conference road trip, after dropping a pair of close games to the Trail Blazers and Suns on Thursday and Saturday.

Ben Simmons is looking forward to the chance to bounce back against an elite squad.

“I can’t wait [to play the Jazz],” Simmons said Saturday. “I can’t wait to see them.”

Simmons finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists against Portland, and 18 points, six rebounds, and four assists versus Phoenix.

“I thought Ben was terrific, overall, in the game,” Doc Rivers said Saturday. “I thought he was aggressive when he needed to be, he was a passer when he needed to be.”

Simmons says finding and maintaining rhythm will be a top priority in the games ahead:

“As a group, I think we’ve just got to find that rhythm. We have to know that teams are going to come out and want to punch us in the face. We’ve got to expect that every night. I don’t think there’s any team out there that’s going to take us lightly, especially if we’re one of the top teams in the East.”

The Sixers hold a 2.0 game lead over the No. 2 Bucks (16-11) and a 2.5 game lead over the No. 3 Nets (16-12) in the East.

In Monday’s meeting with the Jazz, the desire to beat the best will come from both sides.

“Everybody wants to play the top teams, and that’s us right now,” Simmons said. “We’ve got to go out there and be ready for teams when they give us their best shot.”

Monday’s matchup tips at 9:00 p.m. ET.

Opponent Outlook:

The No. 1 Jazz lead the No. 2 Lakers by 1.5 games in the Western Conference standings.

The Jazz have won seven straight, including a Saturday 112-94 win over the Miami Heat. Donovan Mitchell, Utah’s leading scorer, led his team in the win, finishing with 26 points, three rebounds, two assists, and a steal.

Rudy Gobert’s 13.4 rebounds per game mark the third-highest average in the NBA, and his 2.8 blocks per game rank No. 2 in the league.

The Jazz are leading the league in rebounds (49.0 rpg) and total 3-pointers made (451) this season.

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