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November 16, 2018

Instant observations: Sixers 113, Jazz 107

Jimmy Butler made his home debut at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night, and it didn't disappoint as the Sixers improved to 9-0 at home this season with a 113-107 win over the Utah Jazz. 

The newest Sixer finished with 28 points on 12-of-15 shooting, including several buckets in key spots and few big defensive plays down the stretch. Joel Embiid added 23 points and seven rebounds in the win. 

Here's a look at the good, bad and ugly from the game.

The good

•  Not that the Wells Fargo Center needed an extra shot of adrenaline prior to Butler's debut, but they got it anyway, thanks to an incredible national anthem by Ron Brooks and a special appearance by Hall of Famer Allen Iverson.

And that was before they even introduced Butler to the home crowd. 

•  That energy carried right over into the game for the Sixers. Butler didn't waste any time recording his first points in his new home arena, scoring the first bucket of the game for the Sixers on a driving reverse layup. 

A few possessions later — with the crowd chanting "JIM-MY BUT-LER!" — Butler nailed a three to put the Sixers up 8-2.

A Joel Embiid layup over Rudy Gobert on the next possession made it a 10-0 run for the Sixers, and forced the Jazz to take a timeout just two minutes into the game. In other words, it was a good start for the home team. 

•  How good of a start? Well, the Sixers hit their first eight field goals, including a pair of threes, to jump out to an early 21-6 lead before missing their first shot midway through the opening quarter. And Butler's fingerprints were all over that early lead, as he had seven of the Sixers' first 21 points and assisted on a pair of three pointers. 

The Sixers hit 13 of their 15 first quarter field goals (86.7 percent) and were 5-of-5 from three to start — even Amir Johnson got in on the action. By the time the first quarter came to an end, the Sixers were up 38-24. And honestly, they could've been up by more. 

•  While the Sixers' red-hot shooting cooled off in the second quarter, Butler remained hot. He finished the first half 6-for-8 from the field with 13 points as the Sixers saw their lead trimmed to just two at the break. Butler looked much more comfortable in his second game with the team, as was evident on the offensive side of the ball. 

Butler picked up right where he left off, making all three of his shot attempts, including an and-one in the final seconds of the third quarter to give the Sixers an 86-84 lead heading into the fourth.

In the fourth, Butler hit another big shot for the Sixers — you know, the kind that are meant to help prevent some of those extended scoring droughts — after an Embiid block on Gobert to put them down just one. 

On the very next possession, Embiid scored on Gobert in the post, and drew a foul, giving the Sixers a one point lead. 

After missing the free throw, some nice hustle by Embiid led to a steal and a Butler dunk to cap off an 8-0 run for the Sixers.

The teams traded blows down the stretch, with Donovan Mitchell, who finished with 31 points on 13-of-31 shooting, finally getting hot at the wrong time for the Sixers. Still, thanks to a three and a pair of free throws from Embiid, the Sixers were able to tie the game at 105-105 with two minutes left.

After a Sixers turnover led to a Jazz layup, Redick hit a pair of free throws to tie it at 107 with 1:27 left.

Mitchell missed from inside 15 feet on the ensuing Jazz possession, and Ben Simmons followed up with a layup and a foul to give the Sixers a two-point lead (he missed the FT) in the final minute. A Joe Ingles missed three gave the Sixers the ball with a lead and just under 40 seconds remaining. The ball went out of bounds on the Jazz with just a few seconds left on the shot clock.

Then this happened... 

And on the ensuing possession, Butler drew an offensive foul on Gobert. Game, blouses.

•  More Butler? You got it... 

•  Markelle Fultz's free throw form looked ... different ... again, but we'll get to that later. His form on this first-quarter pull up looked just fine, however.

•  Joel Embiid got the better of last season's Defensive Player of the Year early on in this one, forcing him to the bench with his second personal foul early in the second quarter. In the first half, Gobert was limited to just 4 points in 10 minutes and a minus-16 rating. 

•  But wait ... there's more! Later in the third, Ricky Rubio missed a pair of free throws to take Sixers fans to the second tier of the Frosty's promos. 

•  And who doesn't like T.J. McConnell? Jimmy Butler certainly does. 

•  Boy, the Sixers really did pull out all the stops for this one. They even had the Red Panda perform at halftime. 

The bad

•  In the second half, Embiid didn't have the chance to defend Gobert for extended periods due to foul trouble, especially in the third. That being said, Embiid finished just 7-of-20 from the floor — and struggled mightily on both ends of the floor to start the fourth quarter — so the Jazz center had to be doing something right against one of the league's top scorers. But Gobert did a solid for the home crowd, by missing a pair of free throws in the third and securing everyone in attendance a free Frosty from Wendy's.

•  For as good as the Sixers were shooting in the first quarter, they were just as bad in the second, finishing 8-for-24 overall and 0-for-6 from deep. 

•  Despite leading by as many as 16 in the first half, the Sixers led by just a pair at the break thanks in part to two big second-quarter runs by the Jazz, including an 11-2 run to cap off the half.

•  Turnovers were again an issue, and were a big part of the reason why the Sixers weren't able to pull away from the Jazz despite their hot shooting. The turned the ball over nine times in the first half. 

•  Embiid spent almost the entire third quarter on the bench after picking up his fourth foul less than 30 seconds in. It was one of several questionable foul calls in this one. And I'm glad I'm not alone in feeling that way.

With Embiid on the bench, the Sixers did a good job of holding off the Jazz for about 10 minutes, but with two minutes left in the third, the Jazz took advantage of a Sixers turnover to take a 81-80 lead, their first since it was 2-0. 

•  The bounces just didn't seem to be going the Sixers way. It seemed like there were several instances where the Sixers seemed to have control of a rebound or lose ball only to see Redick dribble the ball of Embiid's foot or to see Mike Muscala and Amir Johnson collide and essentially hand a wide open layup to the Jazz. This probably falls in a sub-section of the turnover issue mentioned above, since it can all be filed under sloppy play, but it's part of the reason the game was closer than it needed to be. 

The ugly

•  Remember how we mentioned Fultz's new-look free throw? Well, here's what we were talking about. 

It wasn't the prettiest, but it seems better than what we saw last week. And it has some of the opposing players questioning what's going on...

•  And while we're on the topic of free throws, the Jazz shot just 21-of-37 from the line in the game, while the Sixers weren't much better, going just 20-of-32. 

•  File this under "Things you don't see very often:" J.J. Redick missed two free throws in a row in the first quarter. 

In the second half, he straight kicked a defender in the face — and was slapped with a flagrant foul for doing so.

•  Find a new slant.

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