The 76ers had an 18-point lead in the third quarter which they promptly lost before the end of the quarter. Unlike nearly every other time this happens, the Sixers actually surged back and secured a victory. The team won their second in a row and their first victories on both ends of a back-to-back this year putting away the Suns 123-110. Four Sixers, led by Dario Saric’s 27, scored at least 20 points, the first time that has happened in two decades.
Joining Saric in the 21+ club were Joel Embiid (22), J.J. Redick (22), and Ben Simmons (21). Saric scored his points on 13 shots plus five free throws, and his scoring efficiency helped give the Sixers the early lead and stick around while the Suns spurred on powered by the Sixers’ greatest weakness: allowing the opponents to shoot an ungodly number of free throws for no apparent reason other than them playing defense too aggressively. We’ll dwell on that another day, and that certainly deserves a deeper look.
But the Sixers eventually overcame their early collapse. Ben Simmons led the fourth quarter charge, scoring 11 of his points and finding the same aggression he had early in the season. The Sixers effectively ran plays to both open up driving lanes for Ben and take shot blockers out of the paint to allow Ben to create shots, mostly for himself. He hit four field goals, including a baseline dunk and a nice sweeping right-handed layup with his right hand, to ramp the lead up to eight, and key jumpers from Redick over smaller defenders iced the game late. Even some intentional fouling couldn’t keep Simmons (7-11 from the line) down.
The defense also swarmed Devin Booker and made it difficult to create easy looks in the fourth quarter. The Suns scored just 21 in the fourth despite the intentional fouling after posting 40 in the third. Aggressive Simmons, plus his stout defense, made the final quarter his show. I’m down for more of this Ben Simmons Show.
- Joel Embiid was a plus-32 in his 31 minutes and played a significant amount of time with four fouls before accruing his fifth. Since his play is so conditioning-dependent, and his breaks are pre-built into the game, I’d like to have him play in those spaces more and learn how to better defend without fouling, since fouling is a team-wide issue.
- Joel Embiid is so g-d good. I understand when theoretical objective observers dismiss his trolling tactics. But only idiots ignore his on-court value. He’s a super-elite player right freaking now.
- It’s a wonder the Sixers allow the most free throws in the NBA and still have a top-10 defense. The wonder is having three elite defenders, including a top-3 defender at the only position where it really matters, when you ignore the excessive fouling.
- Devin Booker scored 32 points tonight, but Robert Covington pretty much dissuaded him from doing anything when he had the defensive assignment. I thought Simmons might be a better match there - I was probably wrong. RoCo did a wonderful job, so much so that Phoenix actively sought to draw fouls on him to remove him from the game. Booker roasted Redick, Jerryd Bayless, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and anyone picking him up on switches.
- Did T.J. Warren actually score 28 points? I really do not remember that.
- Getting back to Embiid - when chasing down a loose ball, he jumped high and fouled Devin Booker, and in the process he fell and landed on his hands. He held his right hand afterward in pain, aiming to bend his fingers back-and-forth and being clearly uncomfortable from that point forward. The Sixers did not run their offense through Embiid for the remainder of the game, and afterward no update was given on the status of his hand. X-rays were taken at the arena. The team is hoping it’s a sprain, but we should hopefully get confirmation of that soon. A broken bone in a shooting hand could be devastating.
During the game, I along with some fans decided to enjoy the game by tracking some Sixers-themed bingo. You can find the premise in the game preview here. Following along with a bingo board was actually pretty fun, if only because I created it and because it made me root for stupid things to happen, like Brett Brown yelling “shit” and stuff like that. I’m already adding a third quarter collapse and T.J. McConnell getting a backcourt steal for future games, but I’m open to more suggestions. Here are the ones which actually happened:
- “The Sixers lead the league in turning the basketball over” was uttered in the third quarter, which the Sixers had seven turnovers. The Sixers finished with 21 for the game, almost three above their average.
- Ben Simmons takes a jumper was notched, which actually happened twice. He hit one of the two.
- Robert Covington was called for a foul where one wasn’t warranted, when Devin Booker jumped into him to draw his third foul.
- Markelle Fultz was mentioned on the broadcast multiple times. Alaa Abdelnaby even mentioned some potential shooting drills, but I haven’t seen any video aside from a small glimpse. He also featured in the postgame interview. This probably will be removed in the future, provided he’s active.
- Brett Brown yelled “Move It!” most notably in the second quarter off an inbounds play. The Sixers did not move it.
- Jerryd Bayless scored on a lob out of a side out-of-bounds play, the typical one which an elevator doors-like setup results in an open layup.
- Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot didn’t make any shots tonight, but he did get two free throws and scores through a cut to the rim, so I’ll count that.
- Someone wanted Brett Brown fired. That was probably too easy.
- And finally, a Trust The Process chant broke out in the final possessions.
Here are the others not accomplished, with explanations where necessary:
- The Sixers committing a foul to stop a fast break despite being in the penalty
- Joel Embiid taunts the crowd
- J.J. Redick turns the ball over in a clutch situation
- The Sixers get a technical complaining about a foul call
- Joel Embiid draws a flagrant or technical from the opposing team
- Amir Johnson gets all of the backup C minutes (on a technicality, since the Sixers went center-less for the final 35 seconds)
- “Alaa! Talk to me!”
- Robert Covington getting hit in the face
- Richaun Holmes dunks (he did not play)
- Trevor Booker throws a pass while falling out of bounds under the Sixers’ basket
- A Brett Brown curse word is audible on television
- Jerryd Bayless misses an open three pointer (he stepped out of bounds before attempting an open three, stepped on the line on a missed open shot, and made his other attempt)
- J.J. Redick gets fouled on a three-pointer
- An opposing player hits a backbreaking three in a clutch situation
- T.J. McConnell yells at Dario Saric (it probably happened; it was not televised)
- Ben Simmons foregoes an open layup to pass to a teammate, who misses
- Amir Johnson attempts a three
- Dario Saric is interviewed by Molly Sullivan (I think it should have happened)
- Joel Embiid assists a Ben Simmons dunk