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Sixers Bell Ringer: Banged-up Sixers can’t stick with sizzling Suns

Joel Embiid and James Harden both looked a bit less than 100 percent by the end of a tough loss.

Philadelphia 76ers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Sixers Bell Ringer regular season standings:

Joel Embiid: 31

Tyrese Maxey: 16

Seth Curry: 8

Tobias Harris: 6

Andre Drummond: 3

Matisse Thybulle: 3

James Harden: 3

Furkan Korkmaz: 1

Charles Bassey: 1

Paul Millsap: 1

It was actually a showdown between two one seeds coming into a Sunday as the Philadelphia 76ers (in a tie with the Miami Heat for first place in the East before tip off) took on the red hot Phoenix Suns. Devin Booker’s bunch has pretty much been the best team in the NBA all season long. They’re elite on both ends of the floor. Chris Paul played in his second game back after missing more than a month with a fractured thumb, and CP3 seems mostly back to being the floor-general we’re used to seeing.

The Sixers did have their chances in this one but were eventually overwhelmed. They fell 114-104, fading down the stretch in a game that seemed closer than the final score indicates.

Let’s establish our bell ringer.

Joel Embiid: 37 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks

Philadelphia 76ers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Each team’s respective MVP candidate came out swinging as Embiid’s Sixers and Devin Booker’s Suns traded haymakers offensively from the jump.

Embiid played nearly the whole opening frame and was a problem for the Deandre Ayton-Bismack Biyombo duo. Joel finished the first with 15 points and four boards. He had it going inside and out, finishing a few in fabulous fashion:

Embiid had an uncharacteristically poor first half at the stripe. He was just 5 of 9 at the break. But he picked it up after that.

Scary moment we’ll have to keep an eye on. With 1:36 to go in the third quarter, Embiid limped off the floor. A play or two before, he found himself all alone under the rim and finished a layup as Booker may have settled under Embiid’s landing space. Booker came over to check on him indicating it was purely an accident. But Embiid was seen grimacing on the bench, and winced after landing hard on one of his resounding blocks after returning. Hopefully it doesn’t swell up because this man is on an absolute mission. It’s a shame he didn’t have a bit more help because the future MVP played well enough to snag another signature win.

Tobias Harris: 17 points 2 assists, 8 rebounds

Philadelphia 76ers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Kate Frese/NBAE via Getty Images

Harris struggled mightily in the team’s first handful of games with The Beard. But he rededicated himself to the defensive end of the court and suddenly his offense has started picking up as well.

Harris drained five of his first six shots vs. Phoenix, getting buckets in the half court over smaller players, making good reads, and getting out in transition for finishes as well.

There may have been something about that desert air, because Harris was in his bag in the first half, scoring with the spin then the scoop:

Harris was awesome in the minutes that Embiid sat during that second quarter as the Sixers somehow went up by 15 despite DeAndre Jordan being out there too. Tobi had 15 points by halftime and Philly led 64-60 at the break.

Unfortunately, there was an intermission and he couldn’t keep it going in the second half. He finished with two points the rest of the ball game.

James Harden: 14 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds, 2-11 from the floor

Philadelphia 76ers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Coming off a game vs. the Los Angeles Clippers where Harden was dominant, this one was a big let down. Sigh.

It hurts because Harden simply didn’t play well and didn’t look right in terms of his health.

We’re putting Harden in here, not because he’s worthy of being the bell ringer. But inauspiciously, it’s because we just need to talk about this.

The worst news of the weekend is that with about eight-and-a-half minutes to go in the fourth, Alaa Abdelnaby on the broadcast noted The Beard was grabbing at his hamstring area. And he was. He didn’t come out of the game, but he looked pretty limited out there.

Prior to that point it had been a mixed bag at best for Harden and ultimately, another very disappointing showing for him vs. an elite team. That’s something that’s all too common for him in 2021-2022 and both Nets fans and Sixers fans can now tell you about it.

Doc Rivers said The Beard’s hamstring is “not there yet” but the team hopes it will be by playoff time. He’s working with a specialist to try to get that right, but it’s possible he had a setback Sunday. We’ll keep an eye on that too.

Tough stretch: the Sixers were up 15 with 7:21 to go in the second. Harden missed a three, Chris Paul hit one, then Harden had a sure- fire layup, but angling for a continuation, he turns an easy two or three for Philly into a flagrant foul by elbowing former Sixer Landry Shamet. The Suns nailed their free throw and a three and boom, it was a six- or seven-point swing. It seemed like a key turning point in the ball game and reminded me of when the Sixers had a big lead vs. the Denver Nuggets recently then quickly let that team back in the game.

That started a 13-0 run for Phoenix who cut the lead down to four by the half.

Harden makes such effortless pocket passes on his pick-and-rolls with Joel Embiid but too often he’s allowing defenders to catch up to him by the time he’s looking to finish around the cup.

Tyrese Maxey had one of his toughest games in a long time. We’ll simply mention him here as well as a not-so-honorable mention. But that’s not totally shocking for a player who just turned 21 years old. That might be an ominous reminder that this team depends on such a young player who’s been mostly awesome all season long but may continue to have some occasional downs with all of the ups we’ve seen.

With a showdown vs. the Bucks on Tuesday and eight games remaining, we’ll have to hope for health before anything standings or seeding related.

Who was Sunday’s Bell Ringer?

Poll

Who is Sunday night’s Bell Ringer?

This poll is closed

  • 90%
    Joel Embiid
    (795 votes)
  • 6%
    Tobias Harris
    (60 votes)
  • 2%
    James Harden
    (22 votes)
877 votes total Vote Now