By Mary Cunningham
Tonight’s the night Sixers fans have been waiting for since last June’s draft:
First-round pick Jahlil Okafor is playing his first home game!
Okafor, the third overall in the year’s draft, finished with a team-high 26 points in Wednesday’s 112-95 season-opening loss at Boston (above).
The 6-11 center hit all six of his free throws, leaving him 14 of 15 from the stripe dating to his last two preseason contests, and added seven rebounds and two blocks.
Okafor also has developed some solid chemistry with Nerlens Noel, who finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Guard Isaiah Canaan had 18 points and seven assists for the 76ers, who opened the season with just nine healthy players.
The Sixers need to take care of the ball and play better defensively if it wants to beat Utah for the first time since November 2012. The Celtics scored 34 points off 22 turnovers, outscored the 76ers 26-7 on the break and went 26 of 27 at the foul line.
Although the Jazz aren’t prolific offensively, Philly will have to keep a close watch on Derrick Favors after he had 26 points in Wednesday’s 92-87 loss at Detroit.
Alec Burks, playing for the first time since December following knee surgery, contributed 18 points off the bench. Gordon Hayward, who led the team with 19.3 points per game last season, will try to get on track after finishing with 13.
“It was just that kind of game – a one- or two-possession game,” coach Quin Snyder, a former 76ers assistant, told the team’s official website. “There’s gonna be a lot of them like that. We know that.”
Utah has high expectations in Snyder’s second season after winning 21 of its final 32 games in 2014-15. The club, though, will try to avoid its fifth 0-2 start in six seasons.
The Jazz made their push last season while leading the NBA with 94.9 points allowed per game. They limited Detroit to 40.5 percent shooting but sent it to the line 34 times.
Nik Stauskas, acquired from Sacramento in the offseason, could make his 76ers debut after back spasms took him out of the opener.