GRADES: Sixers lose second straight to red-hot Suns

Joel Embiid | Sixers Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Joel Embiid | Sixers Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia 76ers battled back and forth with Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns before falling apart in the second half.

The Philadelphia 76ers lost to the Phoenix Suns, 120-111. The Sixers have lost two straight and drop to 18-9 on the season while the Suns have won five straight and are now 16-9. Devin Booker led the Suns with 36 points while Joel Embiid paced the Sixers with 35 of his own.

Much has been made of the Sixers’ elite starting lineup, but the bench has been a concern for the team, particularly with Shake Milton out with an ankle injury. In today’s tough loss, the bench struggled and clearly lost the game. The trend showed up across the entire game, with the starters playing well only for the bench to lose it right back.

The Sixers jumped out to a 22-14 lead midway through the first quarter, led by stout team defense and all five starters scoring during the opening run. Doc Rivers went to a majority bench lineup at the end of the quarter and things fell apart. The offense looked very disjointed without Milton and the Suns were able to get back in the game.

Once the starters returned, Ben Simmons brought life back to the Sixers offense. Ben was extremely aggressive attacking in transition, finishing with nine points in the second quarter and 16 at the half. Booker went toe to toe with Ben in the quarter, scoring eight points and keeping the Suns even.

At the half, the Sixers were shooting only 42 percent from the field and 2/11 from three. The entire first half was a half-court struggle, although the Sixers did manage to go 15/17 from the line.

The Suns looked like they might blow it out early in the third, but Danny Green and Seth Curry had a decent stretch to give the Sixers the lead midway through the third. The Sixers’ run did not last long, as this quickly became Booker’s quarter. The elite shooting guard torched the Sixers for 16 points in the quarter, going on a personal 9-0 run at one point and getting to the rim whenever he wanted.

A19-5 run spanned from late in the third until a few minutes into the fourth, effectively ending the game. The Sixers did battle back behind a strong fourth from Embiid, getting within five points with about five minutes left. However, an 11-2 run quickly blew up a 102-97 game to 113-99, again led by Booker and Chris Paul. Paul was particularly effective in the fourth, snaking his way through the pick and roll and nailing his classic midrange pull-up jumpers.

Ultimately, the bench created deficits that were just too large for the starters to make up. The Suns do have a strong bench led by Jae Crowder, Cam Johnson, and Philly-favorite Dario Saric, but Rivers should look to stagger the starters and bench more. The Suns’ bench strength combined with Milton’s absence was the difference in this game.

B+. <strong>36 mins | 35 pts | 8 reb | 2 ast | 1 stl | 0 blk | 2 TO | 12-23 FG | 2-2 3PT| 9-10 FT | 3 PF | –2 |</strong><p>Embiid had another strong offensive performance, scoring efficiently from all three levels and getting to the line. The only real knock on Embiid for this game is his defense. Saric had no trouble scoring throughout the game and Ayton heated up in the second half against Embiid.</p>. C. Philadelphia 76ers. JOEL EMBIID

PG. Philadelphia 76ers. BEN SIMMONS. C+. <strong>35 mins | 18 pts | 6 reb | 4 ast | 2 stl | 0 blk | 2 TO |  6 -9 FG |  0-0 3PT|  6-9 FT | 3 PF | -5 |</strong><p>Simmons had an amazing second quarter but only scored two points in the second half. His offensive stat line was decent, but Ben was the primary defender on Devin Booker for most of the second half. Booker scored 36 points and didn’t have much trouble scoring on the self-proclaimed “best defender in the NBA.”</p>

B-. <strong>37 mins | 18 pts | 5 reb | 5 ast | 0 stl | 0 blk | 2 TO | 7-9 FG | 0-0 3PT| 4-4 FT | 1 PF | –1 |</strong><p>Nine shots in 37 minutes was not enough for Harris, particularly when Harris was shooting well from the field. Some of that may be on Rivers, but the Sixers could have used a more aggressive Harris in this game.</p>. PF. Philadelphia 76ers. TOBIAS HARRIS

Philadelphia 76ers. DANNY GREEN. C+. <strong>31 mins | 10 pts | 4 reb | 0 ast | 2 stl | 1 blk | 1 TO | 4-5 FG | 2-3 3PT| 0-0 FT | 1 PF | +1 | </strong><p>Danny Green had a solid game offensively but really struggled defensively. Green does a nice job defending bigger wings and as a help defender, but is not mobile enough to stay in front of quicker guards anymore. Both Paul and Booker could get wherever they wanted against Green.</p>. SF

<strong>35 mins | 10 pts | 1 reb | 4 ast | 0 stl | 0 blk | 3 TO | 3-9 FG | 1-5 3PT| 3-4 FT | 1 PF | +0 |</strong><p>Seth Curry struggled from the field and particularly from three, missing one three very badly early in the game. Curry had to be hid on defense to avoid guarding Paul or Booker and added three turnovers. Not his best outing.</p>. SG. Philadelphia 76ers. SETH CURRY. C-

A loss on the road to the Suns, a playoff level team in the Western Conference, is not the end of the world. But with the Bucks breathing down the Sixers’ necks and the defense struggling for two games in a row, the concern is starting to grow. With the Sixers playing the NBA-leading Jazz on Monday in Utah, things are not getting easier.

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