What: Phoenix Suns host Philadelphia 76ers
When: Saturday, 7PM AZ Time
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena
TV: FoxSports Arizona PLUS
Radio: 98.7 FM ArizonaSports
After tonight's game against the lowly Sixers, the Suns schedule gets a lot tougher. Beating the Sixers becomes imperative not for any playoff chase, but for sanity after losing three consecutive very winnable games.
Name the stat and the Sixers are bad at it. They are bottom five in assist rate, turnover rate, effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage. Overall, they have the league's worst offense. On defense, they are bottom five in rebound rate and defensive efficiency.
Worse yet, Nerlens Noel seems to have regressed this season. He doesn't mesh well with Jahlil Okafor. His scoring and rebounding numbers this season compared to last are nearly identical, but the overall impression is that he's not playing nearly as well. His assists, steals and blocks are all down. And this on a team that desperately needs those features.
#2 overall pick Jahlil Okafor has been good on the stat sheet, 17.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, but he's been the main change this year on a Sixers team that has dropped from 13th on D a year ago to lowly 30th this year. Okafor will never be known as a defensive stalwart.
Frankly, The Process is going poorly (unless you're mad scientist Sam Hinkie). That's why the Sixers brought in former Suns Jerry Colangelo and Mike D'Antoni to "assist" Sam Hinkie and Brett Brown with their jobs.
And one of the first things the Sixers did was re-acquire star point guard Ish Smith to replace the not-very-good Tony Wroten.
Yes, Ish Smith.
Overall, Smith's impact will be negligible for the Sixers, but that's until you consider he will be suiting up for tonight's game against the Suns.
As a starter, Smith is 2-0 against the Suns this season (for the Pelicans) with a near triple-double in each game. So it stands to reason that "The Ish strikes back" will be a running theme tonight when he suits up for the Sixers.
No Markieff Morris tonight, which by itself should make the Suns more competitive.
In December, Morris has allowed a whopping 80% shooting percentage in 4th quarters (5 games) while converting almost none of his own shots. Couple that with bad turnovers and fouls, and he's been a total disaster.
Without Morris, the Suns power forward rotation is a bit more predictable and efficient. They just need everyone else to buckle down and play well to close out games.
Let's see if Eric Bledsoe got over his depression or whatever is making him play like a zombie, and if any of the Suns got their Christmas presents from Deadpoolio.
Of course the Suns should beat the 1-30 Sixers tonight at home.
Of course they should.
But don't be surprised if Ish Smith gets a triple-double and the Sixers walk out with a win over the Suns.
I calls it like I sees it.