3 storylines for Sixers' matchup against West's top team

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To snap their two-game losing streak, the 18-9 Sixers will need to defeat the 22-5 Jazz on Monday night in Utah, not an easy task on paper. 

Here are the essentials for tonight’s game: 

  • When: 9 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 8:15 p.m. 
  • Where: Vivint Arena 
  • Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia 
  • Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app 

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Embiid expected to play, Conley still out 

Joel Embiid was listed as questionable throughout Monday with back tightness.

However, head coach Doc Rivers said in his pregame media availability that he was unaware there was an issue with Embiid, who participated in shootaround. Embiid's matchup against Rudy Gobert, again a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, is clearly one to watch. 

"As far as I know, he's going," Rivers said of Embiid.

Shake Milton will miss a third consecutive game because of a left ankle sprain. The Sixers’ bench has been outscored by a total of 55 points over the past two contests.

Utah will be missing its starting point guard as Mike Conley is sidelined with right hamstring tightness for a fifth game in a row. Conley started his second season with the Jazz well, averaging 16.5 points, 5.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds, and shooting 41.0 percent from three-point range. Joe Ingles has replaced Conley in the starting lineup and sixth man Jordan Clarkson’s minutes have increased slightly during Conley’s absence. 

One key to beating the West’s top team 

As one might expect with a team that’s won 18 of 19 games, Utah doesn’t have many obvious weaknesses.

An area where the Sixers might be able to have some success, though, is transition offense. According to Cleaning the Glass, 16.5 percent of the Sixers’ possessions are in transition (fifth in the NBA), and the team is adding 3.4 points per 100 transition possessions (sixth). Meanwhile, Jazz opponents are adding 2.9 points per 100 transition possessions. Utah is 18th in the league in that category. 

Essentially, the Sixers have been efficient when they play in the open floor and Utah’s defense hasn’t been quite so sturdy in that setting. Capitalizing on opportunities to run will be more important than usual for the Sixers on Monday night, especially given how strong the Jazz have been in half-court defense. 

How will Sixers wrap up their trip? 

The outcome of this game will heavily influence the complexion of the Sixers’ four-game West Coast road trip. If they win it, they can say they beat two hot teams, including one with the league’s best record. A 2-2 mark looks solid from that perspective, especially given the second-place Bucks’ three-game losing skid.

If the Sixers lose — and if recent problems with three-point shooting and bench play continue — then there’s likely a bit of urgency to turn things around back at Wells Fargo Center, where the team will play the Rockets on Wednesday and the Bulls on Friday. Not every early-season game is a telling test, but this one could certainly have a significant impact on momentum. 

It also might play a larger role than most in determining how fans, players, media members and coaches view All-Star balloting, with Ben Simmons vs. Donovan Mitchell a matchup many will be monitoring. 

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