Coming in to tonight’s Sixers/Suns game, there were quite a few interesting storylines that I’d like to note for those who may be losing track:
- Joel Embiid vs. DeAndre Ayton — both players have done a bit of publicly trolling each other on Twitter
- Perhaps a few auditions for potential trade pieces Markelle Fultz & Tj McConnell (the Suns have been rumored to be looking to acquire a point guard and have already made the Sixers an offer for TJ McConnell) and Trevor Ariza (the Suns signed Ariza as the savvy vet who would help them move up the NBA standings, but things aren’t working out as Phoenix is 3-12 to start the season. Ariza is on a one-year deal, and the Suns may look to move him to give his minutes to younger, developing players).
- The return of Richaun Holmes, who felt Philadelphia was an environment that was limiting his potential
- The return of legendary Sixer Isaiah Canaan
- The first game in Philadelphia for Mikal Bridges, who according to some was devilishly shipped to Phoenix just minutes after being drafted by the Sixers
If I told someone who was watching NBA basketball for the first time that one of the teams on the floor during the Sixers/Suns game was 11-7 and fourth in their conference while the other was 3-12 and last in their conference, that person would incorrectly match those descriptions to each team.
The Sixers’ 1st quarter looked like the third run of the day for five out of shape guys down at the local YMCA. Careless passes led to turnovers and transition buckets — even a good pass led to a turnover on at least one occasion, as Korkmaz dropped a dime from Fultz under the basket. Lousy pick-and-roll defense lead to uncontested lob-dunks. JJ Redick had to leave the floor after smashing his face on DeAndre Ayton’s (might have actually been Richaun’s?) head and bloodying his nose. When the first quarter mercifully came to a close, the Suns totaled 36 points (thirty.six.) to the Sixers 26.
Joining in on the Suns’ scoring parade was the Mikal Bridges/Richaun Holmes revenge tour. I was guilty of changing the narrative around Bridges once the Sixers traded him: “Yeah he’s just a glue guy anyway, a role player. Zhaire could be special.” But shew, would Mikal Bridges be a nice fit on the Sixers. The kid is all over the place, stealing on one end and finishing on the other, hitting catch-and-shoot threes, just plain being aggressive. Richaun wasn’t shy once he hit the court either, racking up 6 points with two nice dunks and 2 rebounds in only 5 minutes.
1st Quarter Box Score
When the 2nd quarter started, one thing was evident: Joel Embiid had had enough. Embiid bullied his way to 6 points in the first two minutes, forcing a Suns timeout. The scoring may have gotten to Joel’s head a bit though, when a beautifully timed pass from JJ Redick got Embiid a wide open path to the hoop only to see Embiid get rim-stuffed while attempting an emphatic windmill dunk.
Despite Joel stepping his game up, the shooting of their own foot continued for the Sixers for much of the 2nd quarter as they tacked on 3 more turnovers. It didn’t help that the Suns kept going back to Devin Booker pick-and-rolls, and well, the Sixers just aren’t defending the PnR very reliably. By the 4 minute mark, Philly still found themselves down 10.
But the Sixers were besting the Suns in one area: free throws. The Sixers’ were able to hoist 23 shots from the charity stripe, sinking 16 of them (the Suns had only 12 FTA attempts in the first half). Thanks to the disparity, Philly had kept the game in reach. In the closing minute Joel Embiid and friends made their push to take back momentum. After Ben Simmons denied a Richaun Holmes alley-oop attempt, the Sixes went the other way in transition and capped it off with a Shamet three. By halftime, the Sixers pulled the game to within 5 points, Phoenix up 62 to 57.
It was ugly, but the Sixers finished off the half giving the impression that they may be able to take this game over if they can just flick a switch.
2nd Quarter Box Score
1st Half Box Score