By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
Phoenix 115, Philadelphia 101 – Box Score
Heading into action Monday night, the Sixers have largely taken care of business against inferior competition this season. Despite Ben Simmons battling the flu and T.J. McConnell still sitting out with a shoulder injury, a Phoenix team that was the laughingstock of the league for its lack of defense over the weekend against Boston certainly qualified as inferior competition. Philadelphia entered play as heavy favorites, expected to blot out the Suns on their continued rise up the Eastern Conference standings.
The only problem was somebody forgot to inform Devin Booker. The Sixers were awful in the first half, turning the ball over, not coming away with loose balls, and bricking all their perimeter shots. After falling behind by 13 at halftime, they finally got their act together in the third quarter, but Booker was constantly there to knock down one dagger after another to keep the Sixers at bay.
Late in the game, the Sixers announced Hall-of-Famer Allen Iverson over the Jumbotron; from the court, Booker joined the Wells Fargo Center in applauding the former legend. But to the chagrin of those Sixers fans in attendance, the 21-year-old put forth the same type of scoring performance the Answer used to have on that very same court.
Booker connected on open looks, drained shots with guys draped all over him, attacked the basket and got to the foul line, and pulled up for the occasional 30-footer just for fun.
It’s scary how good Devin Booker already is at 21 years old. Offensive machine.
— Justin (@JusDabz_3) December 5, 2017
By the end of the evening, the Suns star had gone off for a season-high 46 points, single-handedly outscoring Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons combined. Booker’s fireworks overshadowed what were some outstanding highlights for the young Philadelphia phenoms.
Embiid recorded 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocks without committing a turnover. He got into some rugged tussles with starting center Tyson Chandler, earning some trips to the foul line (going a perfect 8-8 at the charity stripe). But when the former Defensive Player of the Year sat was when JoJo really kicked things into another gear, abusing Alex Len to a degree that would be illegal in some states.
Thanksgiving has been over for a week and a half, but Embiid still had some leftover stuffing to dish out, denying Len at the rim on a couple different occasions.
On the other end, JoJo’s footwork made Len look like somebody trying to grasp at the mist after Nightcrawler has teleported across the room.
Embiid continues to victimize Alex Len, this time on the offensive end pic.twitter.com/UzEAkrcyrl
— The Render (@TheRenderNBA) December 5, 2017
Meanwhile, despite playing though illness, Simmons was one of the few Sixers who didn’t look lethargic in the first half. His night ended with 20 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and an impressive 6 steals. How he managed to readjust and flush home this deflected alley oop pass, I’ll never know.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) December 5, 2017
J.J. Redick actually led the Sixers in scoring, scoring 21 of his 25 points in the second half. Redick missed his first 6 three-point attempts, but hit 3 of his last 4 to help Philadelphia get back within as close as 5 in the fourth quarter.
Robert Covington looked to be breaking out of his recent slump with a strong performance over the weekend against Detroit, but he struggled with his shot versus Phoenix. RoCo was 3-13 from the field and 2-10 from behind the arc. I was also surprised Brett Brown didn’t have Covington on Booker more often, as Jerryd Bayless and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot obviously had their troubles against him.
Finally, I think we can cast aside any hope of a Nik Stauskas revival. Getting some playing time with McConnell sidelined, Staukas airballed his only shot attempt and had 2 turnovers in 8 minutes, including one where he basically tripped over his own feet and fell down trying to drive the lane. Sauce did not see the court in the second half. It’s probably time to see how ready Furkan Korkmaz is for the big stage, rather than giving Stauskas any more time in the future.
Next up for the Sixers are the Lakers at home Thursday night on national television. I would say that should be an easy win for them, but as we learned Monday, even these improved Sixers need to do more than simply show up on a given night to come away with a victory.