Here are my key takeaways and "best" and "worst" awards from the 76ers' 115-101 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Sixers were horrible on defense. Foremost, Devin Booker scorched them for 46 points. However, T.J. Warren also baked the Sixers. The small forward scored 25 points on 12-for-19 shooting. The Sixers pride themselves on defense. Well, this was far from an effort to be proud of.
Neither can the Sixers take pride in their overall effort. They entered this matchup as a double-digit favorite over the struggling Suns. As Joel Embiid said, they lost this game from the jump ball. Going through the motions, the Sixers looked like a team expecting to turn things on in the clutch. They almost did, closing the gap to 99-94 with 4 minutes 49 remaining. Some might point to an inability to stop Booker down the stretch as the reason they lost. However, they were doomed by a 17-point, second-quarter deficit, which they were unable to overcome.
The Sixers have to be elated that T.J. McConnell is expected to return Thursday against the Los Angeles Lakers. They really missed his energy and grit off the bench vs. the Suns. Without him, the offense was stagnant and no one really put pressure on Phoenix's defense. McConnell's ability to penetrate and create easy baskets for teammates was missed.
Robert Covington's shooting woes are back. The Sixers small forward had 10 points on 3-for-13 shooting. He missed 8 of his 10 three-point attempts. This came one game after he snapped out of his six-game shooting slump by making 6 of 13 three-pointers en route to scoring 25 points.
The Sixers have gone from an elite three-point-shooting team to a squad struggling to make three-pointers. They shot 7 for 30 against the Suns. Covington and JJ Redick took the bulk of the shots, combining to make just 5 of 20. The Sixers had good and wide-open looks on some of their attempts. The shots just weren't falling.
‘Best’ and ‘Worst’ awards
Best performance: Booker lit up the Sixers. In addition to his season-high 46 points, he had eight rebounds and two steals. Booker scored 32 points after intermission, with 19 coming in the fourth quarter. That's when he made three of his five three-pointers.
Worst performance: I had to give this to Nik Stauskas. The Sixers reserve shooting guard had a small, but dismal offensive display. His lone shot was an airball three-pointer right before the first-quarter buzzer. He drove the lane later in the game, but turned the ball over while falling to the floor. Stauskas finished with two turnovers, one foul and zero points in 7 minutes, 39 seconds of action.
Best defensive performance: Tyson Chandler gets this award. The Suns center finished with a game-high three steals to go with two blocks. He also had a hand in Embiid's shooting just 7 for 18 from the field.
Worst statistic: This goes to the Sixers' shooting 23.3 percent on three-pointers.
Best statistic: This goes to the Sixers' making all 16 of their foul shots.
Worst of the worst: The Sixers' effort. They didn't come ready to play and got burned by the Suns.