Time: 5 pm (local)
TV: Fox Sports Arizona Plus
Radio: 98.7 FM
The 14-31 Phoenix Suns take on the 6-39 Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center in a revenge game that simultaneously holds lottery-ball implications. What a world.
The Philadelphia 76ers fell to the Boston Celtics 112-92 in their last game Jan. 24 — a matchup that was postponed due to inclement weather from the day before.
The Sixers owned a 1-30 record before acquiring Ish Smith from the New Orleans Pelicans. Since then, they have gone 5-9 with him starting at the point, all starting with a victory over the Suns in Phoenix on Dec. 26. The former Sun is averaging 15.9 points and 8.1 assists over his 14 games in Philly this season and has been a steadying influence for a young team that was starting Isaiah Canaan and rookie T.J. McConnell at point guard for much of the season prior to Smith's arrival. Another significant figure for Philadelphia is rookie center Jahlil Okafor, who averages 17.4 points as the team's leading scorer. Nerlens Noel, meanwhile, averages 10.4 points and 8.3 rebounds as a fixture in the frontcourt.
The Sixers as a team average the fewest points in the league at 94.3 per game, which is surprising since they play at one of the fastest paces in the NBA. However, they possess an offense that ranks 28th in field goal percentage (43.1), 26th in 3-point percentage (33.0), and 29th in free throw percentage (67.6), which explains a lot. They also rank 26th in rebounds per game (42.1) and 25th in assists per game (20.2).
Points: Jahlil Okafor (17.4)
Rebounds: Nerlens Noel (8.3)
Assists: Ish Smith (8.1)
Phoenix is coming off a hard-fought 98-95 victory over the Atlanta Hawks that saw Archie Goodwin sink the game-winning 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left on the clock. The game also continued the resurgence of Tyson Chandler, who set or tied multiple team records when he pulled down 27 rebounds.
The Suns have been ravaged by injuries lately, forcing coach Jeff Hornacek to make lineup adjustments on the fly. Those adjustments have included playing both Chandler and Alex Len together for extended minutes, which has been relatively positive thus far. Archie Goodwin has also held his own as the team's starting point guard in Brandon Knight's absence, recording back-to-back 20-point games. Still, the Suns have managed just two wins in 2016.
Points: Eric Bledsoe (20.4)
Rebounds: Tyson Chandler (8.3)
Assists: Eric Bledsoe (6.1)
Eric Bledsoe (Suns): left knee surgery (OUT)
Brandon Knight (Suns): groin pull (OUT)
Ronnie Price (Suns): right big toe surgery (OUT)
Jon Leuer (Suns): back spasms (DOUBTFUL)
Markieff Morris (Suns): right shoulder strain (PROBABLE)
Nik Stauskas (76ers): shoulder (OUT)
The first meeting between these two teams was the true beginning of the end for the Suns' season. Not only did they crash and burn against a 1-30 team, the Suns also lost Eric Bledsoe to a meniscus tear. Now the emphasis seems squarely on developing players and good habits instead of the playoffs, which may or may not lead to a few trades in the coming weeks.
Coming into this game, the Sixers possess the greater momentum. They have won two of their last five games while two of those losses went into overtime. They also are not dealing with the same injury woes that the Suns currently are. That being said, the Suns have no excuse not to be ready for this game. They were embarrassed on their home court back in December and should be looking for revenge. Whether they extract it or not will depend on the type of effort they choose to play with today.
Ish Smith vs. Archie Goodwin
It is difficult to determine what twisted world would have Ish Smith vs. Archie Goodwin as the key matchup to anything, but that is the situation here. Smith has burned the Suns on numerous occasions this season, first with New Orleans and lastly in Philly. Goodwin, meanwhile, is coming off two impressive showings at point against San Antonio and Atlanta. Whoever can win this battle will give their team a significant edge. Goodwin has numerous advantages over Smith, including size, length, and comparable speed, but he must remain in control of the basketball to limit Smith's opportunities in transition. If he's loose with his dribble or careless with passes, he will play right into Smith's hands.