It’s probably fair to call this one a schedule loss.
The Sixers dropped the second of a back-to-back when they fell 125-105 to the Suns in Phoenix Saturday night.
Tyrese Maxey was on fire, scoring a game-high 37 points on 14 of 19 shooting, but the rest of the team failed to mount sufficient offense. Joel Embiid had 28 points, despite not being at his sharpest, shooting 8 of 19.
Devin Booker led the way for Phoenix, putting up 29 points, shooting 9 of 18 from the floor.
While Jalen McDaniels was available for the first times since Monday, the Sixers were again without James Harden and Danuel House Jr.
Here are some thoughts at the buzzer.
- The purple throwbacks the Suns are wearing are a thing of beauty.
- Well it didn’t take long to find out how good McDaniels looked after getting a few more games off, as he was asked to guard Booker three minutes into the game. He had a lob attempt from Tyrese Maxey slip past him, so it’s safe to say he’s back. On a serious note, he did look to be moving better than a week ago.
- Both these teams played in two different cities last night, and that was very evident at the start of the one, as both teams shot under 40 percent from the field. Tyrese Maxey had himself a solid opening quarter, shooting 3 of 4, but Booker led all scorers with 13 as Phoenix got out to a two-point lead.
- A second straight night of ugly minutes to start the second. The Suns went small with Embiid on the bench, and their five-out offense had the Sixers scrambling all over the floor. It also didn’t help that the Sixers’ reserves missed their first eight shots of the game.
- Luckily for Philly, they had a Kentucky guard to go blow-for-blow with Booker. Thanks to Maxey, the Sixers made just as many threes in the first half as they did all night in Golden State. Maxey was 5 of 7 from deep, and led all scorers with 21 at the half.
- It was a real sloppy half for Embiid, who had 12 points at the break and shot 4 of 12 to get there. Despite three assists and one turnover, it didn’t feel like he was taking great care of the basketball either. The obvious problem with the Sixers offense is that the absence of the league leader in assists is noticeable.
- Still, Embiid made a couple of big plays on the defensive end to keep the Sixers hanging around. They went into the break down by five.
Joel Embiid denied Josh Okogie's dunk attempt. pic.twitter.com/TEcZBrg3SI— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) March 26, 2023
- The offense had a slightly better flow to it to start the second half, with Embiid trying to make his mark on the game as a scorer. Still, the biggest takeaway was that Tyrese Maxey was literally everywhere.
- In the absence of DeAndre Ayton, Phoenix did a really solid job defending Embiid. They sent a fair amount of doubles, the Sixers turned the ball over seven times in the third. But Bismack Biyombo did a good job as a one-on-one defender. On top of his five blocks, Biyombo finished with 17 points and x rebounds.
- The Sixers definitely wanted to give Embiid a slightly lighter workload, as he checked out slightly earlier rather than play the entire third. Doc Rivers elected to go with Dewayne Dedmon over Paul Reed in the second half. Dedmon immediately gave up an easy and-one and was called for an offensive foul just a few more trips down the floor. Philly went into the fourth quarter trailing by six.
- As much as Embiid has missed Harden’s passing, no one has missed his playmaking more than the second unit. With the big fella sitting, the Sixers only source of offense was essentially Maxey, and that was too much for him as Phoenix started the fourth on an 11-2 run. The Suns’ bench outscored the Sixers’ 43-9 on the night before the benches were pulled.
- That run would end up being the dagger, as the Sixers clearly didn’t have it them to make that big of a run on this night. If anything, the Sixers probably should have waved the white flag a bit sooner, but Embiid is still very much chasing that scoring title.
- The Sixers will wrap up this road trip in Denver when they take on the Nuggets Monday at 9 p.m. ET, in what will surely be just another regular season game.