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Joel Embiid’s huge performance not enough vs. scorching Suns

Joel Embiid played like an MVP but that didn’t cut it vs. Chris Paul and Devin Booker

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

The Sixers wrapped up their West Coast road trip against the NBA’s best Phoenix Suns Sunday night. Joel Embiid was excellent, with 37 points on 57.3 percent true shooting, but didn’t have consistent enough production from his supporting cast to come away with the win. James Harden had just 14 points on 2-11 shooting. Devin Booker led the Suns with 35 points on 68.8 percent true shooting as Phoenix knocked off the Sixers, 114-104.

Here are some takeaways from the loss:

First half

  • Devin Booker got off to a red hot start for Phoenix, making five of his first six shots and putting up 22 first-quarter points. While Booker got started hunting Tyrese Maxey, he cooked everyone and anyone the Sixers put in front of him.
  • The Sixers got off to a great start against the Suns’ smothering defense. Joel Embiid went blow for blow with Booker, putting up 15 first-quarter points of his own. Both Embiid and James Harden did a good job of picking their spots and finding teammates for open threes. Tobias Harris continues to look more comfortable in the new offense as well. It was a 39-point first quarter for Philly, which tied a season high.
  • As the rotation tinkering continues, Harris really excelled with the Maxey+bench unit group in the second quarter. He looks very comfortable with a lob threat and a lineup where he can be the primary scorer, but the most encouraging sign was how consistently he was driving to the basket. Harris had 15 first-half points on 7-9 shooting. No pump fakes, no jab steps, just one dribble and a quick drive to the hoop, just a great job by Harris to push the Sixer lead to 15 with Embiid and Harden on the bench.
  • Phoenix took the momentum back, going on a 13-0 run when the Sixers’ starters came back into the game. Philadelphia’s offense died out, allowing the Suns to get out and run in transition, something the Sixers have struggled to stop all season long. Finally, the Sixers stopped the run with what they do best: free throws. Credit to the Sixers for immediately responding with an 8-0 run and maintaining a four-point lead heading into the half.

Second Half

  • Phoenix retook the lead as the Sixers struggled to generate the quality looks they did in the second half. They’re perimeter shooting really struggled, they shot just 2-9 from beyond the arc in the third quarter. Harden didn’t shoot the ball particularly well and really struggled without Embiid to start the fourth quarter. It should be noted that it looked like his hamstring was really bothering him.
  • Joel Embiid injury scare, everybody drink.
  • It’s been said many times before, but DeAndre Jordan has been SO bad it’s mind boggling that the other options on this team aren’t even being considered. Why take up this many roster spots with centers if only the worst one is going to play??? The Sixers looked dead in the water early in the fourth quarter.
  • Philly did manage to fight back into the game. They went down as much as 11, and went scoreless for over four minutes of game action before Maxey started to heat up, sparking a 10-0 Sixers run. Maxey shot 1 of 6 from the field in the first half and rebounded by going 6-13 in the second half.
  • It was bizarre to see Doc Rivers opt to close with Danny Green instead of Matisse Thybulle, especially given that they both finished with four fouls. Green was 2-5 for the game, and has not shot as consistently as Georges Niang or defended nearly as well as Thybulle. It was very puzzling to see him out there during crunch time.
  • The Sixers just didn’t have enough to beat Phoenix with Harden struggling as much as he did. Embiid was excellent, despite appearing to be bothered by the ankle he rolled in the third quarter. Harris was excellent in the first half, and Maxey had a strong second half, but it just wasn’t enough to beat the league’s best.