As the Roll Safe meme might suggest, you can’t blow a big lead if you let the other team build a big lead first. Maybe that was the Sixers’ strategy Monday night, as Philadelphia played an abysmal first quarter, before finally turning the game around in the second half to put away the cellar-dwelling Phoenix Suns, 119-114.
After being lucky to trail by just five points at the half (you can read an in-depth breakdown of the first half action here), Philadelphia surged ahead on the strength of a 32-14 run in the third quarter. Joel Embiid cranked up his play, tallying 14 points and 6 rebounds in the third quarter alone. JoJo finished with 33 points, 17 rebounds, 3 steals, and a block, showing Deandre Ayton firsthand that it takes more than some creative artistic ability to succeed in this league.
Mike Muscala also showed up in a big way, scoring 9 points in the third quarter on his way to a season-high 19 points. The Masked Moose was an animal on the offensive glass throughout the game, collecting 3 o-boards and drawing a handful of other loose ball fouls with his non-stop activity. Brett Brown also went to some time with Muscala at the five spot, which proved effective. With Amir Johnson recording a -9 plus/minus in just 6 minutes, and looking absolutely washed in pick-and-roll defense, maybe Brett Brown will go with Moose at center more moving forward.
The Suns gamely hung in the game, mainly behind 37 points and 8 assists from Devin Booker. However, the Sixers received some key fourth quarter buckets from Ben Simmons, who was excellent aside from some poor free throw shooting (1-6 at the foul line); Simmons finished an assist shy of a triple-double with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists. A Joel Embiid tip-in of a Jimmy Butler missed jumper eventually served as the nail in the coffin, making it a three-possession game inside the final minute.
With the win, the Sixers remain the only NBA team undefeated at home this season, now 9-0 at the Center. They’ll stay in Philadelphia for Wednesday night’s contest against Anthony Davis and the Pelicans.
Other Game Notes:
- After playing 7 minutes in the first half, Markelle Fultz was benched in favor of T.J. McConnell after halftime. Could this be a situation where trade negotiations are well underway? Feel free to speculate baselessly.
- JJ Redick scored 17 points, despite twice going to the locker room after getting hit in the face. Redick with cotton balls stuck up his nose to stem bleeding is still a better shooter than 98% of the league.
- Jimmy Butler shared approximately a 15-second-long hug with Allen Iverson on the court after the game. Hopefully, Allen whispered the secrets of how to connect with Philadelphia fans, and not which TGI Friday’s has the best drink specials.
- Mikal Bridges had a pair of steals and went 3-5 from three for 13 points. In a season where the Sixers seem increasingly focused on the short-term, having Bridges in place of the injured Zhaire Smith and the future Miami pick would certainly be a nice boost for the current rotation.