After their incredible comeback victory against the Portland Trail Blazers, the 76ers looked to continue their early-season roll against the Pheonix Suns. These aren’t the Suns you may know from the past few seasons as they’ve become a legitimate NBA team thanks in large part to the additions of Ricky Rubio and Kelly Oubre.
After his performance against the Blazers, Furkan Korkmaz was rewarded with a starting role against the Suns.
Even with the defensive mindset Coach Brett Brown has instilled in his team, the Suns had their way offensively. The Sixers had issues closing out on shooters and struggled mightily to keep Pheonix away from offensive rebounds. The Sixers started to find their offense, but they still struggled to stop the Suns. Aron Baynes picked up where he left off with the Celtics dominating against the Sixers scoring seven early points.
As the minutes closed, the legend of Raul Neto continued. Neto took over the final minutes claiming the lead for the Sixers and carried that energy over into the second quarter.
Continuing their run early in the second, they fed the ball to Tobias Harris who had the hot hand. Both teams began to slow down as turnovers once again became an issue. One positive constant in the game was Ben Simmons’ intensity. Racking up five early steals in the half, Simmons made a statement that nothing would come easy against him.
The Sixers were stuck in a rut though and their issues were clear. Rebounds, free-throws, and turnovers all continued to plague them. Without Embiid this team is still very good, playoff-caliber even. But they are not the same bully ball team that looked like a finals contender. This team is at their best when they are crashing the boards and banging down low, drawing contact and knocking down free-throws.
In the final minutes, the Sixers struggled to find their shot. After allowing the Suns to score on their final possession the Sixers were left with under five seconds to take the last shot. Al Horford took the inbound pass and brought it all the way up the floor, trucking Aron Baynes before splashing a three at the buzzer (his second three to end a quarter that game).
The Sixers immediately came out of the half looking to draw contact forcing the Suns into four team-fouls within the first three minutes. Even with this, the Sixers struggled to pull away. Richardson and Korkmaz couldn’t buy a bucket but maybe it didn’t matter.
Al Horford was having his way, putting his mark on the game. With a step-back three, Horford collected his 21st point forcing Pheonix to take a timeout.
The third quarter slowed to a crawl as the refs refused to allow the game to flow. With time winding down, both teams were exchanging blows. In a very disappointing quarter, whistles blew non-stop. Overall ugly basketball for most of the third quarter.
More of the same unfortunately in the fourth as the Sixers not only failed to find a rhythm but couldn’t get out of their own way. Sloppy turnovers and rushed shots led to a slump to begin the fourth that lasted most of the quarter. The Sixers hung in though as the fought against their own mistakes to stay in the game keeping the Suns within reach.
Come the last two minutes the Sixers began to fall apart at the seams. more turnovers, bad fouls, and sloppy defense gave the Suns a chance to put the game away. With less than a minute left, Horford hit a clutch three that gave every Sixers fan hope.
But it just wasn’t meant to be as the Sixers would lose the game by a score of 114 – 109.
The Sixers have to take a long look in the mirror as they only have themselves to blame. Yes, the refs were disgustingly involved but the Sixers turned the ball over 20 times and shot 60% from the charity stripe. This Suns team is no joke but if the Sixers didn’t hinder themselves they would have soundly won this game.
The Sun’s came out and immediately put Aron Baynes on Ben Simmons who effectually shut him down offensively for the entire game.
If there was a game for Ben Simmons to take a jump shot it was this game. tonight we watched the same Ben Simmons we saw lose to the Boston Celtics in the 2018 playoffs. He cannot continue to have games like this if they truly expect to be a Finals contender.
Return of the King
The Sixers clearly feel the loss of Joel Embiid as the Suns ran rampant in the paint and imposed their will. This game stands as a reason why Embiid needs to play as many games as possible. He can’t continue to miss games because of his immaturity. Thankfully, Embiid will be returning against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.
We have another late one Wednesday night at 9:00 PM EST in another matchup between young stars Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell.
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports