The Suns burst out of the gate on fire, taking a 36-21 lead late in the first quarter as Devin Booker racked up six first quarter assists, along with eight points, as the starting point guard alongside Mikal Bridges, Trevor Ariza, T.J. Warren and Deandre Ayton.
The Sixers, though, have won 22 consecutive regular season games at home though, and the Suns lead was down to five by halftime, then the Sixers took a 10-lead in the third quarter and had the lead to 12 in the fourth before the Suns pulled back into the game with the bench unit and made the end interesting.
The final-score of 119-114 was buoyed by a pair of Mikal Bridges threes that were too little, too late.
Everyone competed hard for the home team, but the discrepancy in foul calls was mind-numbing and ultimately led to the Suns demise.
The Sixers took 42 free throws to the Suns’ 24, and really there was no difference in aggressiveness outside of the center position. But the Sixers made the legal swipes, reach-ins and body blows while the Suns did not. Watching the tape will, I’m sure, help the Suns pinpoint the difference.
Making matters even worse, the Suns made just 13 of their 24 freebies while the Sixers made 31 of 42. That’s an 18-point difference right there.
Mikal Bridges had a great start to the game but picked up two quick fouls, then a third foul quickly in the second quarter when he returned. Despite that, Mikal had a great start and finish to the game, making 3-of-5 threes on one end and two steals on the other in 23 minutes.
Devin Booker played almost the whole fourth quarter with five fouls, and Isaiah Canaan even had five of his own. By the end of the game, Booker had fouled out while three other starters had five fouls each (Bridges, T.J. Warren and Ayton).
Including Canaan, that’s 5 Suns players with 5+ fouls in a single, non-overtime game. Has that ever happened before?
Well of course the marquee matchup was All-Star Joel Ambiid versus rookie Deandre Ayton. Ayton scored the first four points between them, including a nasty lob finish over Embiid, but then Embiid began to dominate while Ayton began to fade into star-struckness.
By halftime the matchup was heavily in Embiid’s favor. Ayton was saddled with foul trouble and only played 15 of the game’s first 36 minutes. The rookie was big and active in the fourth though, dropping nine points and grabbing six rebounds as a big part of the group that fought their way back into the game.
Embiid finished with 33 points and 17 rebounds, while Ayton had 17 points and 9 rebounds.
Devin Booker was on fire in different ways all night, finishing with 37 points — including six threes — and 8 assists.
He had six of those assists in the first quarter alone as the Suns built a 15-point lead.
The rest of the game, he dished only 2 assists (the Suns missed a lot of open shots the rest of the way) while scoring 29 and the Suns ended up losing.
Booker could have had more assists if guys had made shots, but he noticeably became a much more interested shooter once his teammates went into their nightly shooting funk.