The Phoenix Suns won a messy one in Philadelphia. The Suns offset 19 turnovers and 25 personal fouls with a season high 12 blocks as well as 11 steals and a +6 margin on the glass. Gerald Green was white hot for Phoenix scoring 30 points on a mere 12 shots. Goran Dragić was a searing second banana with 24 points of his own to go with 7 assists and 3 steals. The Suns never trailed en route to matching their season high in scoring with a 124-113 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
The 76ers started this one looking out of sync, with a timeout after the Suns' first score that resulted in... a turnover and Gerald Green to Miles Plumlee alley-oop. The Suns for their part looked sharp on offense hitting their first six shots... all assisted! Not too shabby for the worst assisting team in the league. And even when they missed, they scored, getting points on all of their first ten possessions to race out to a 21-9 lead with over 6 minutes left in the first quarter. The streak ended with two Plumlee missed free throws but the Suns were still able to get an offensive rebound thanks to P.J. Tucker's hustle. Channing Frye missed a three-point attempt, but that hardly cooled the Suns down. After extending the lead to 36-22, the Suns got a little sloppy allowing the 76ers to score on consecutive turnovers to cut the lead to 10.
When the first quarter was done, the 76ers were shell shocked. The Suns poured in 40 points led by 12 apiece from Goran Dragic and Green, who combined to go 10-10 from the field in the quarter. My preview couldn't have been more wrong with regards Plumlee's play vs. Spencer Hawes. Miles had 8 points and 4 rebounds in 9 first quarter minutes, including a couple of authoritative put-backs over Hawes. Tristan Thompson paced Philadelphia with 7 points in the first. Overall the Suns shot 77.3% from the field for the quarter and 75% from downtown to take a 40-26 lead into the second quarter.
Markieff Morris kicked off the second quarter with a solid block and that was followed on the next possession by a sweet post move by Alex Len to go up and under for an uncontested dunk. The Suns' reserves got a little careless with the ball turning it over on 2 of their first 3 possessions in the quarter. With the back-ups on the floor, the Suns' offense cooled noticeably as they only scored 2 points in the first 3 minutes of the quarter. Philadelphia was equally cold, scoring only 2 themselves and the Suns maintained their 14 point lead. The Suns defended the rim early with 8 blocks in the first half, including an athletic sky-and-swat by none other than Ish Smith. Despite that, the 76ers were able to cut the lead to 7 halfway through the second quarter by holding the Suns to 8 points over the first 6 minutes of the period.
Once the 76ers got to within 50-43, Coach Jeff Hornacek re-inserted his starters (minus P.J. Tucker). After Evan Turner hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 5, Goran Dragić and Channing Frye promptly hit back-to-back longballs followed by a Leandro Barbosa fastbreak lay-in to stretch the lead back to 13. After growing the lead to 14, Philadelphia put together a 6-0 run to end the half and the Suns took a 62-54 lead into the break. Dragić lead all scorers in the first half with 15 points, followed by Green with 14, Markieff Morris with 8 (and 4 blocks!) and Plumlee with 8 points and 7 rebounds. For Philadelphia, Evan Turner scored 13 points for a 76ers squad struggling from the field, hitting only 40% of their shots.
The block party continued in the second half with Gerald Green denying Michael Carter-Williams and finishing on the other end with short pull-up jumper to extend the Suns lead to 10. Plumlee continued his strong play in the paint notching his 10th point and 10th rebound two minutes into the first half to collect his 10th double-double of the season. At the 9 minute mark of the quarter, Philadelphis stepped up their defensive intensity and the Suns started tripping over themselves trying to pass too much leading to a couple of turnovers. Goran Dragić settled things down with a loooong 3 pointer, only to have Thaddeus Young answer with a wide open 3 of this own at the other end. On the possession following a nice baseline hook by Plumlee, Gerald Green spectacularly missed a dunk that somehow resulted in a technical foul on 76ers Head coach Brett Brown. Dragić nailed the free throw to give the Suns a 75-63 lead.
Sloppy play was the hallmark of the third quarter with both teams turning it over and fouling one another multiple times. Both teams were in the bonus early in the third. The Suns' mistakes allowed the 76ers to draw within 7 before a free throw from a technical foul on Evan Turner and a couple of foul shots by P.J. Tucker allowed the Suns to get the lead back to double digits. The pace in the quarter was slowed considerably by the 22 personal fouls and 3 technicals (resulting in 31 free throws) that were called. After a strong performance (13 points, 3 rebounds, 4 blocks... numbers he would finish with) Markieff Morris had to check out of the game with 2:30 left in the 3rd period after picking up his 5th foul. More sloppy play by the Suns (11 fouls and 7 turnovers in the 3rd) resulted in a steal off a bad pass by Smith and an 8 second backcourt violation on the next play. Both resulted in scores, allowing the 76ers to cut the lead to 9 points. But for every miscue by the Suns, Philadelphia matched them and the Suns were able to take a 95-82 point margin into the final stanza.
The 4th quarter started out much like 3rd with a Thaddeus Young layup followed by a quick Lavoy Allen foul on Channing Frye. Fortunately, the next 90 seconds elapsed without any fouls called and Ish found Alex Len wide open under the rim for a dunk that allowed the Suns to extend their lead to 15. The 76ers threatened to make a run by scoring 5 unanswered points on an Evan Turner pull-up and a Spencer Hawes 3 pointer, but LB answered with a 3 of his own to put the Suns over the century mark, giving Phoenix a 102-89 lead.
And yet the Philadelphia 76ers refused to fold (or the Suns refused to put them away... take your pick). After a Plumlee lay-up pushed the Suns' lead to 15, Philadelphia scored 7 straight points to cut the lead back to single digits. After some back and forth play, Gerald Green hit what should have been a dagger at the 3:13. But Gerald wasn't content to put a stake in the heart of the Sixers. He pulled out the hammer and gave it a couple of more whacks with a drive-and-dunk and another 3 pointer to give the Suns a 118-105 lead with 1:58 remaining. The last 2 minutes were essentially the world's most boring game of keep away punctuated by yet more free throws for the Suns.
Suns fans probably would have liked to see the Suns play a tighter game and win this one going away, but as it was, the 76ers never really threatened. For all of Phoenix's turnover and foul issues, the 76ers were no better, racking up 27 fouls and 21 turnovers of their own. (For those keeping score at home, that's a brutal 52 total personal fouls in 48 minutes of play.) Phoenix was able to answer every run with one of their own. 113 points is a lot to give up, but when you also score 124 points, it's forgivable. Five Suns finished with double figures as did five 76ers. Michael Carter-Williams led the Sixers with 22 points (on 19 shots) while Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young finished with 21 apiece.
In addition to Dragić and Green's fireworks, the Suns got fine performances from P.J. Tucker (15 points, 8 rebounds) Miles Plumlee (14 points, 13 rebounds). Alex Len flashed all sorts of potential even if his numbers were fairly pedestrian in his 14 minute cameo (6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 block).Special spark plug shout out to Ish Smith who balanced his 3 turnovers with 5 assists and TWO great blocks.