At halftime, Simmons was just 2-of-9 from the field with only five points. He had trouble getting to the rim and when he did get there he wasn't connecting. Partial credit to Utah's defensive attention to Simmons, partial credit to the bad angle and odd shot selection when he was double teamed. But the second half was a different story. Simmons came out and was cutting harder, was more aggressive, and reaped the rewards. He closed out the night with a 27-point 10-rebound double-double. His free throw's still need work, but when he is able to correct and create for himself, it's almost forgivable that he went 1-of-4 from the charity stripe.
In just 7:32 in the first he managed eight points on 3-of-4 and a perfect 2-of-2 from the free throw line. By half-time he had thrown his body on the floor twice in an attempt to chase down loose balls. He didn't score again, but he was relied on in the crucial moments of the game and was one of the rare spots of energy (especially in the first half) in a game that at times lacked it.
The reserve center was used instead of Richaun Holmes. Brett Brown hasn't been using the two together much, it's been one or the other. Before the game Brown said he does so because of what the analytics say about matchups. No matter the reason, the outcome this time was great for Johnson. He was defensively more engaged than we've seen this season. He had four points, four rebounds, and two blocks in just over five minutes in the second quarter. He played through mismatched switches and managed to only commit one foul. He finished the night with eight points, 13 rebounds, and four blocks in 21 minutes.
He was back in the lineup but that is about all you can say about his first game back after a six-game absence. Defensively he caused some problems for Utah, but it wasn't a glaring amount. He played just over 16 minutes in his return and scored just five points on 2-of-3 with three turnovers. It wasn't that he was inefficient with his shots, it's just that they weren't there, and it didn't much seem like he was there either.