How much fun is this? The Suns beat Philadelphia in Phoenix, 114-109, to move to 5-2 on the year and continue to amaze.
The Suns might as well just rename their team the Aron Baynes Show. The big man scored seven early points for the Suns, saving their offense when nothing else was working. His effort and shot-making in addition to the Suns’ strong defense were enough to keep the Suns in the game in the first quarter.
Because there is nothing Baynes can’t do, he also started the game on Ben Simmons defensively. The Suns’ largest lead was six before Baynes checked out.
The team did itself no favors, turning the ball over three times in the first few possessions. Simmons himself had three steals in the first period.
Later on, Devin Booker got cooking, and the Suns took the lead. Booker scored nine points in the first quarter and generally evaded the 76ers’ swarming defense. Crucially, Booker did no turn the ball over in the opening period.
The young star was also fantastic on defense, keeping Sixers scorers in check in isolation and moving his feet frenetically as a help man in the halfcourt.
Still impressed with the effort the Suns give on defense. Real team effort. Sixers run Horns Chest action, watch the weakside when Harris comes off the flare. Booker with a big stunt and recover, watch two white jerseys help on the drive. Look at the help when Harris catches it. pic.twitter.com/NbD3nnkjS5— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) November 5, 2019
On the other side, it was Tobias Harris leading the scoring charge for Philadelphia. Harris continued to create good shots after going for nearly 30 over the weekend in Portland during the first game of Joel Embiid’s suspension.
When Booker and Baynes returned early in the second quarter for Phoenix, the team came back to life. Without Frank Kaminsky hitting shots, the second unit is not going to score well. Mikal Bridges was pretty aggressive when he came in but got called for some iffy fouls that disrupted his rhythm.
In general, it was another night that featured a lot of Suns Players vs. Referee bouts.
But the team kept its cool and stayed right in the game, never trailing by more than 7 points in the first half.
The end of the half got wonky: Two free throws by Furkan Korkmaz put Philadelphia up 7, then the Suns responded with four straight, then Al Horford barreled past half court and nailed a three at the buzzer. Philadelphia led, 61-55, at halftime.
The Suns again kicked themselves when the second half started, turning the ball over twice in a row. Booker responded with nine straight points, but the Suns got called for three fouls on defense as well. One step forward, two back.
To be fair to the Suns, their ongoing frustrations with officials have been warranted for the most part. When Booker fouled Sixers rookie Matisse Thybulle at the foul line in the third quarter to send Philly into the bonus, it was on a play referees let slide all the time. The foul was the 16th called on Phoenix compared with just 10 for the Sixers.
But Thybulle missed both free throws while Kelly Oubre Jr. earned a trip to the line and made both of his on the other end. That cut the Philadelphia lead to 3, 74-71.
Somehow, more than halfway through the game, the Suns were still in it.
Maybe because they felt bad, the refs did their best to even the foul count as the period wound down. A Booker three was called back because Tobias Harris bumped Baynes going through a screen. A couple fouls later, Booker went to the line for points 25 and 26.
The game ground to a halt in the third period due to all the fouls, reviewing the fouls, and arguing about the fouls. Then you look up and the Suns are still right in the game. That’s a huge difference this year.
Philadelphia led 82-81 heading into the fourth.
Tyler Johnson nailed a big pull-up two to give the Suns a 3-point lead, then another to put them up 5 after a Furkan Korkmaz travel. The Suns put an emphasis on getting Johnson involved, running similar pindown action to get Johnson in space as they use to free Booker.
The Sixers’ offense broke down a bit as Al Horford missed easy shots, and the Suns didn’t let up. Simmons was quiet as well.
Another open three from Rubio coupled with a fast break dunk by Booker put the Suns up 7 and turned Talking Stick Resort Arena into a rock concert.
It was only a matter of time until Horford got cooking again. The Suns started to back off him in the half court and he nailed a deep two. In transition a few moments later, Horford followed up a Simmons miss with a putback dunk to tie the game at 100.
The Sixers just come at you in so many different ways, and their transition attack is particularly lethal when Embiid is out.
But do you know what is also lethal? Devin Booker. Especially when he plays Philadelphia. Two straight times, Simmons failed to stay with Booker and the Suns’ star nailed two tough shots to give the Suns the lead once again.
At this point in the game, there were nine lead changes and 12 ties. Richardson missed the second free throw to protect Phoenix’s lead.
More Booker. Pissed off this time, Booker drove down the baseline and drew contact from Horford to finish the and-1. The next time down, Rubio drew a charge.
An Oubre finish puts the Suns up 6 with 1:08 to play. Are you not entertained?