The Sixers have a chance tonight to sweep their three-game West Coast road trip, but they’ll have a much tougher obstacle in front of them than injury-riddled Lakers and Clippers clubs. The Phoenix Suns sit at 60-14, far and away the best record in the NBA. They are currently riding a seven-game winning streak, most recently sweeping a three-game road trip of their own, defeating Sacramento, Minnesota, and Denver. More crucially for Phoenix, Chris Paul returned to the court in the win over the Nuggets after missing just over a month due to a fractured thumb. CP3 did not look the least bit affected by the layoff, tallying 17 points and 13 assists in 30 minutes.
In the earlier meeting between these two teams back in February, the Suns prevailed, 114-109, led by Devin Booker’s 35 points. Booker is in the midst of a hot stretch at the moment, averaging 30.4 points per game in the month of March, including 49 points on Thursday on the five-year anniversary of his 70-point game. The matchup of Matisse Thybulle on Booker will surely be one to watch.
While the Suns have impressively already clinched the top seed in the Western Conference, the Sixers are in the throes of a tightly-contest mix near the top of the East. Following last night’s results, the Sixers are tied for first place in the conference with Philadelphia, Miami, Boston, and Milwaukee are all within one half-game of each other. As our Tariq Karibian laid out in an article yesterday, there are a lot of factors in how the Sixers approach the home stretch of this regular season, from injury and load management to the possibility of a lower seed meaning an easier first-round matchup against Chicago or Cleveland (although I would note the Raptors are surging up the standings and that would be a very difficult series). Whatever happens, being tied for first place right now given the Ben Simmons-sized hole in the roster for more than half the season is quite remarkable.
Regardless, we are probably a week or so away from the Sixers starting to think about such things seriously and there is no back-to-back consideration for tonight’s outing. Expect all hands on deck in a measuring stick game against a Suns team at nearly full strength, the primary exception being the absence of promising third-year wing Cameron Johnson, out with a quad injury. Tonight is an excellent opportunity for the Sixers to see how they stack up against the odds-on favorite to win the title this season. In addition to witnessing a highly competitive matchup, local Sixers fans are no doubt thrilled at the 6:00pm start time after the last two night owl performances. Enjoy tonight’s contest and check back with us at Liberty Ballers to follow along with the action.