PHOENIX – The 76ers held off the Phoenix Suns, 132-127, at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Wednesday night. Here are my main takeaways and best and worst awards:
- This is without a doubt Joel Embiid’s team. The all-star center averaged 35 points, 18.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks as the Sixers won road games against the Suns and Los Angeles Clippers (Tuesday) by an average of 5.5 points. He missed Sunday’s game at Portland, and the Sixers lost by 34 points.
- Outside of getting starts on nights when Embiid is sidelined, Amir Johnson isn’t in the Sixers’ plans. That became obvious against the Suns, as he was the lone healthy Philly player to receive a “did not play — coach’s decision.” And this was on a night when one would have expected him to play since the Sixers were without two starters, Jimmy Butler and Wilson Chandler. The only reason he starts when Embiid is out is that the Sixers want to keep Mike Muscala coming off the bench no matter what.
- Ben Simmons took full advantage of the mismatches in the post against all the Phoenix players who guarded him. The 6-foot-10 point guard, who scored a season-high 29 points, was just too big for the Suns' young guards and wings to cover. Like Embiid, he practically lived at the foul line in the first half, making 8 of 12 attempts en route to finishing 15-for-23 from there.
- The Sixers feast on losing teams. They improved to 21-6 against teams with sub-.500 records. That’s one of the league’s top five records against teams with losing marks. Nearly blowing a 30-point lead, the Sixers made this contest closer than they wanted in the second half. But they still managed to increase their winning percentage against losing teams to 77.7.
Best performance: This goes to Embiid for the second consecutive game. He finished with game highs of 42 points, 18 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks to go with 4 turnovers. Thirty of his points and 14 of his rebounds came in the first half.
Worst performance: I couldn’t avoid giving this to Mikal Bridges. The Suns rookie small forward, acquired in a draft-night trade with the Sixers, missed seven of his eight shots and scored only two points. The Villanova product even had the game’s final shot blocked by Simmons before time expired.
Best defensive performance: This goes to Embiid.
Worst statistic: I gave this to the Sixers' 18 turnovers, with eight coming in the third quarter.
Best statistic: Embiid is the fourth NBA player in the last 25 seasons to record 42 points, 18 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks in a game.