The Philadelphia 76ers (32-22) fell short to the Phoenix Suns (44-10) 114-109. 

76ers Takeaways:

Embiid/Harris Masterclasses

Joel Embiid had a great performance tonight per usual. He dominated his matchup with DeAndre Ayton with his physical play in the paint and lethal spot-up jumpers from the key and the baseline area. He responded well to Phoenix’s 2-3 zone with Ayton up top by physically paving his way to the hoop. A common theme in Embiid’s offensive performance was his aggressiveness and (for the most part) not settling for jump-shots. Also, who could forget his elite footwork and his beautiful fadeaways and turn-around jumpers. On top of this, Joel’s passing was also solid as he found open guys on the perimeter as a result of his insane mid-range gravity. Defensively, Embiid’s pick-and-roll coverage was fantastic. His mix of high and low drop coverage got many stops and basically shut down Ayton and made things hard for Chris Paul. Unfortunatley, Joel made a crucial mistake in crunch time. After forcing a Paul turnover, Embiid threw a poor pass to Curry, which gave Phoenix the ball back and that’s all she wrote. Embiid contributed 34 points and 12 rebounds on 61.5 true-shooting. 

Tobias Harris’ improved play continued tonight. The biggest standout was Harris’ versatile scoring, especially in the first half. Specifically, Tobias played aggressively like his partner in crime Joel Embiid. Harris played great on the break as he emphatically got to the basket and hit from beyond the arc multiple times. Tobi was lethal in the mid-range off the pick-and-roll with Embiid/Drummond with his quick pull-up jumper. Harris poured in 30 points on 77.8 effective field goal percentage. 

The Collapse

Though Harris and Embiid put up amazing numbers, this loss was mainly on Doc Rivers’ rotations and Seth Curry’s cold shooting. Rivers’ rotation of Korkmaz/Thybulle/Green/Niang/Drummond got picked apart defensively and lacked any sort of creativity offensively. As a result, the offense became stagnant and full of Korkmaz dribble drives and a lack of ball movement and activity overall. On the other end, Drummond’s rim protection was horrible as Ayton and McGee dominated the boards. All in all, Phoenix crept back into it partly due to Rivers’ horrible rotations and clock management. 

Like previously stated, Seth Curry was awful tonight. He was clearly injured and completely out of rhythm. His shot selection wasn’t the issue as he was used in high-screen action with Embiid and Drummond and took open shots but the shots didn’t fall. Curry went 1-9 from the field. While he did hit a clutch triple in crunch time, overall it was a horrible effort from Seth tonight. 

Suns Takeaways:

Thanks to Chris Paul and Devin Booker’s elite offensive contributions, Phoenix was able to come back and get the win. Booker’s scoring was a huge issue for Philadelphia, despite Thybulle’s defense. DBook was able to score from all three-levels of the floor with his shot creation, ability to draw fouls, isolation play, and most importantly his rim pressure. However, you have to give Thybulle some credit. He made things as difficult as possible for the elite scorer. Matisse closed out on Booker very well and iced the Booker/Ayton pick-and-roll, which forced him to pass out of it. Also, Tisse was able to fight through Ayton’s tough screens and with his ability to recover he put a lot of pressure on Book. However, DBook tallied 35 points on 62.9 true-shooting. 

Like I previously mentioned, Chris Paul was great tonight, despite an underwhelming first half. The 76ers played great defense against him in the pick-and-roll, but it didn’t matter in the long run. With Paul’s crafty in-between game, he maneuvered through Philly’s interior defense and got off clutch bucket after bucket. Evidently, CP3’s shot creation off screens and isolation was paramount to Phoenix’s win in the fourth quarter. Paul did a tremendous job as the team’s facilitator tonight as he connected with Booker multiple times. Paul had 16 points and 12 assists on an inefficient 41.7 effective field goal percentage. 

Other Key Contributors 

Philly native Mikal Bridges had a strong outing in this one with his great one-on-one defense and versatile scoring. His shot creation in the mid-range with his smooth turnaround jumper was effective. Also, his cutting and rim pressure, especially in transition was excellent. Bridges contributed 23 points on 73.0 true-shooting. Additionally, reserve Javale McGee alone dominated Philadelphia’s second unit with his two-way impact. McGee’s rim protection was outstanding and Andre Drummond couldn’t stop his baby hooks that surprisingly kept falling. He was also dominant on the glass. Javale had 15 points and 12 rebounds on 55.8 true-shooting.