The Philadelphia 76ers opened as double-digit underdogs for their lone trip of the season to Utah on Thursday night, but that line could grown even higher as the 76ers have decided to rest Rookie of the Year favorite Joel Embiid.
It's a total shame that we won't get to see Embiid, a 7-footer from Cameroon, go up against Jazz 7-foot-1 Frenchman Rudy Gobert, a potential Defensive Player of the Year and likely All-Star, in a terrific international big man matchup. Gobert is working on a string of 11 straight double-doubles and leads the NBA in field-goal percentage. Embiid leads all qualified rookies in scoring (18.7 ppg), rebounding (7.4 rpg), blocks per game (2.4 bpg), field-goal percentage (46.8) and free-throw percentage (76.5).
But this news shouldn't surprise anyone who follows the 76ers as they are being incredibly cautious with the playing time of their franchise player Embiid. Philadelphia plays again Friday night in Denver so he will play there instead. The 76ers probably figure they had little chance of beating the Jazz even with Embiid but could win in Denver with him. It likely means more playing time for Nerlens Noel in Salt Lake City as he has really been tethered to the bench. As of this writing, Philly is +11.5 on NBA odds for that game.
Utah ended a three-game losing streak on Tuesday with a 102-100 victory at the Lakers. Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 31 points and nine rebounds. Joe Ingles hit the late winning 3-pointer. The Aussie leads the NBA in 3-point field-goal percentage (.477). Jazz starting point guard George Hill missed yet another game with his toe injury and has played only 11 all season. But the tentative plan is for Hill to be in there Thursday. He has been great when on the court, averaging 20.0 points and 4.3 assists.
The Jazz have won seven straight overall against the 76ers and 11 in a row at home. The 76ers are 2-6 ATS on NBA picks in their past eight at Utah. The teams played on Nov. 7 in Philadelphia and Utah won 109-84. Hayward paced the Jazz with a team-high 20 points to go with seven rebounds and five assists. Embiid had 14 points in the loss.