Sure... it's easy enough to piece together the basics. The Sixers set a season-high by scoring 59 points in the first half (on 53 percent shooting). And yes, they still managed to find a way (read: bad defense, less-than-ideal shot selection... the usual) to lose by double digits. But they managed to do a few good things that not only kept them in last night's game, but will hopefully carry over for the rest of the season.
Tony Wroten's game-high 28 points stands out, but more importantly, he displayed a fair amount of composure in the first half. He'll never be a "playmaker" by any definition of the word, but Wroten played 17 straight minutes after checking into the game late in the first quarter, and only managed to turn the ball over once.
Tony Wroten could be the best player of all time.— Michael Levin (@Michael_Levin) January 3, 2015
Henry Sims had an impressive 16 points off of the bench, and for the second straight game, Michael Carter-Williams (17 points, five assists) turned the ball over a mere three times. Even Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (12 points, eight rebounds, three steals) had a strong showing at the 4 spot.
That said, we still need to be honest with ourselves for a second. Heading into last night's contest, the Suns averaged nearly 16 points per game more than the Sixers, so it made total sense that they'd beat the 76ers by a healthy margin.
It didn't seem like that was going to happen from the jump, however. The first two quarters weren't always pretty, but they were enjoyable to watch (at times). After Phoenix took a 53-43 lead midway through the second quarter, Wroten, Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel sparked a 16-4 run over the final six minutes to give the Sixers a 59-57 lead heading into halftime.
At some point between the second quarter buzzer and Molly Sullivan's halftime interview with Brett Brown, the Sixers morphed into the team that we know and (for some reason) love. They couldn't shoot to save their lives in the second half (31.0 percent from the floor, 17.6 percent from beyond the arc, 53.3 percent from the free-throw line), but they grabbed enough offensive rebounds (nine) to keep things competitive for a while. An 11-2 Phoenix run at the start of the fourth quarter gave the Suns a 14-point lead, and once Wroten went full Wroten (four second-half turnovers), all hopes for a comeback were dashed.
Philly native Markieff Morris and possible future Sixer Gerald Green both scored 21 for the Suns, while Goran Dragic dropped 10 and dished out 10 assists for his second double-double of the season.
The last time the Sixers stepped onto a basketball court before last night, the Golden State Warriors smashed them by 40. Against the Suns, they only lost by 16. PROGRESS.
The Sixers close out their West Coast road trip with a contest against the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday night at the Staples Center. On Monday, the 76ers return home to face the LeBron James-less Cleveland Cavaliers.
- Brett Brown used his 15th starting lineup in 31 games: K.J. McDaniels got the nod at shooting guard in place of JaKarr Sampson. In 26 minutes, McDaniels scored just four points (on 2-for-8 shooting), had three assists and two rebounds. He also had his own shot blocked four times.
- The Sixers' bench was responsible for 49 of the teams 96 points. Granted, Wroten and Sims were responsible for 44 of those points, but the number is impressive nonetheless. Also noteworthy: No one on the 76ers' second unit had a +/- lower than -2 (Jerami Grant). Meanwhile, McDaniels had the best +/- ratio of any starter with -12.
- Nerlens Noel played a hair under 22 minutes against the Suns, and wasn't on the floor for most of the second half. There's no injury to speak of: In his post-game presser, Brett Brown spoke of Noel sitting on the sidelines as part of the "development" process.
- The Sixers' putrid 15-for-25 "performance" at the charity stripe ensures that they'll remain the worst team in the league when it comes for free throws.
- Shavlik Randolph only got 2:10 to wreak havoc against his former team. He registered exactly one turnover in the box score.
- JaKarr Sampson, Point Guard was limited to those same 2:10, and somehow managed to take two shots, attempt two free throws, and turn the ball over.
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