The Philadelphia 76ers faced off against the Phoenix Suns in a Saturday afternoon matinee at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers were coming off a blowout win against the Toronto Raptors, while the Suns came into this matchup after suffering back-to-back losses against the San Antonio Spurs at home. Suns have already been bitten by the injury bug, missing Bradley Beal and Devin Booker in this matchup.
For both teams, the first half of play was very sloppy. The game was riddled with fouls, misses, and turnovers early on. At some points in the first half, it looked like it was a Harlem Globetrotters’ game. It seemed like the referees were also affected by the early start. Some of their calls or non-calls were definitely questionable.
The game and pace picked up in the second half, with the Sixers starting off hot and pushing a small halftime lead to a 12-point game. Kevin Durant and the Suns fought back in the final five minutes of the third quarter to cut the lead to two.
Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, and Kelly Oubre helped take back the game and push the lead back up to double digits in the fourth quarter. Embiid never saw the floor in the fourth, and after having a slow start, Maxey closed the Suns out with some timely three-point shooting. The Sixers won their fourth straight game, defeating the Suns 112-100. Kelly Oubre and Joel Embiid led the way for Philly, while Kevin Durant (31 points and 8 rebounds) paced the Suns.
Kelly Oubre continues to stand out
Kelly Oubre Jr. continued to impress during the early part of this season. His shooting and athleticism have truly been an asset for the Sixers as they navigate this era without Harden. Oubre has shown tremendous effort on defense as well, willing to take on the opponents’ best offense player.
Not only did he score 25 points, but he also guarded Kevin Durant and Eric Gordon. Oubre also had the responsibility to guard the rim from the weak side and did a solid job helping out altering shots at the rim. His consistency has been such a surprise and he has played his way into a major role for the Sixers this year and maybe beyond.
The reign continues
Joel Embiid’s dominance continued against the Suns on Saturday afternoon. He fought through constant double teams and turned it on after a slow first half. Embiid ended with 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 assists. His passing has been much better in finding his teammates for open threes and cutting to the rim. His assist total didn’t show the impact during this matchup but he continues to trust his teammates.
The Big Fella hit a crucial three-pointer with just seconds to go in the third quarter to put an end to a Phoenix run that cut the lead down to two points. That turned out to be the last shot of the game, as the Sixers pulled away in the fourth quarter and he didn’t need to return. After a slow start in Milwaukee, Embiid is not letting go of his MVP trophy that easily.
Picking his spots
Tobias Harris has looked much more like the Tobias Harris of old under Nick Nurse. Harris mentioned during the Sixers’ training camp that Nurse had empowered him to be more aggressive on offense, and he has. Against the Suns, he picked his spots when to attack and when to be patient and wait for the ball to find him. He attacked in transition and shot over anyone who was defending him in the mid-post.
There were a couple of possessions where he was matched up with Kevin Durant and held his on defense and didn’t shy away from going at him on offense. This feels like the version of Harris that was a borderline All-Star a couple of years ago. He will only get more comfortable as the season continues leaving more room to see him shine.
Up next for the Sixers
The Sixers will next face the Washington Wizards Monday night in Philadelphia, with tip-off being scheduled for 7:00 PM EST. Washington has been anything but impressive this season so the Sixers’ hot streak could very well continue.