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Game Preview: Phoenix Suns host Philadelphia 76ers without two starters

The Suns will have to defend likely MVP winner Joel Embiid without their starting center

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Philadelphia 76ers Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns (38-35) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (49-24)

When: 7 p.m. AZ time

Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, Arizona

Watch: Bally Sports AZ

Listen: 98.7 FM

DraftKings Betting Lines: Suns (-1.5), over/under 225

The Phoenix Suns host the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday night at Footprint Center. The game will be televised by Bally Sports Arizona.

This is the second game between the Suns and the 76ers this season. Philadelphia won the first meeting in a road game for Phoenix, 100-88, Nov. 7.

The 76ers are led by likely MVP award winner Joel Embiid, who is averaging an NBA-best 33.4 points this season with 10.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. Philadelphia is currently third place in the Eastern Conference, trailing the No. 2 seed Boston Celtics and No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks.

Here are some of the notable statistics for each team provided by TeamRankings.

  • Points per game: Phoenix (No. 18, 113.5), Philadelphia (No. 13, 115.4)
  • Assists per game: Phoenix (No. 4, 27.2), Philadelphia (No. 15, 25.2)
  • Rebounds per game: Phoenix (No. 8, 52.4), Philadelphia (No. 28, 48.4)
  • Average scoring margin: Phoenix (No. 9, +1.5), Philadelphia (No. 3, +5.1)
  • Offensive efficiency: Phoenix (No. 19), Philadelphia (No. 4)
  • Team shooting percentage: Phoenix (No. 21, 46.8), Philadelphia (No. 8, 48.6)
  • Effective field goal percentage: Phoenix (No. 21, 53.7), Philadelphia (No. 7, 56.2)
  • 3-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 7, 37.6), Philadelphia (No. 2, 38.7)
  • 2-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 28, 52.1), Philadelphia (No. 15, 55.0)
  • Blocks per game: Phoenix (No. 11, 5.1), Philadelphia (No. 13, 4.8)
  • Steals per game: Phoenix (No. 13, 7.2), Philadelphia (No. 8, 7.8)
  • Turnovers per game: Phoenix (No. 14, 13.9), Philadelphia (No. 10, 13.6)
  • Opponent points per game: Phoenix (No. 6, 112.1), Philadelphia (No. 3, 110.3)
  • Opponent shooting percentage: Phoenix (No. 8, 46.8), Philadelphia (No. 10, 46.9)
  • Opponent effective field-goal percentage: Phoenix (No. 7, 53.5), Philadelphia (No. 9, 53.7)
  • Defensive efficiency: Phoenix (No. 9), Philadelphia (No. 5)
  • Opponent 3-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 14, 35.9), Philadelphia (No. 3, 34.5)
  • Opponent 2-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 6, 53.3), Philadelphia (No. 17, 54.9)
  • Opponent total rebounds per game: Phoenix (No. 14, 50.8), Philadelphia (No. 4, 49.3)

Likely Starting Lineups

Phoenix Suns

  • G Chris Paul
  • G Devin Booker
  • G/F Josh Okogie
  • F Torrey Craig
  • C Bismack Biyombo OR Jock Landale

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • G Tyrese Maxey
  • G De’Anthony Melton
  • F Tobias Harris
  • F PJ Tucker
  • C Joel Embiid



  • C Deandre Ayton (groin) is OUT
  • F Kevin Durant (ankle) is OUT


  • James Harden (Achilles) is day-to-day
  • Jalen McDaniels (hip soreness) is day-to-day
  • Danuel House (shoulder soreness) Jr. is day-to-day

Uniform Matchup

Courtesy of

What to Watch For

To say the least, the Suns are in a precarious position in the Western Conference.

Phoenix is now the No. 5 seed and has lost six of its last seven games. The Suns were in an incredible groove once forward Kevin Durant arrived after he was traded to the team before the trade deadline, but it is now in a backslide it must stop before it loses even more position.

The Suns’ game Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers will be a hard one. Philadelphia is one of the best all-around teams in the league and is led by Embiid, who will be an especially difficult matchup for the Suns to contain without starting center Deandre Ayton.

Embiid can score at all three levels and is especially proficient in the post, where the Suns will have to rely on defense from centers Bismack Biyombo and Jock Landale. Biyombo, a known shot-blocker throughout his career, could have some level of success against Embiid but it will still be a very difficult matchup for Phoenix.

The Suns will likely have Durant back in the lineup Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. That would give the team seven games to find a footing before it enters the postseason.

As it stands, Phoenix is one-half of a game behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the No. 4 seed. It is tied with the Golden State Warriors for the No. 5 seed (the Suns hold the tiebreaker between the teams since they won three of four meetings this season) and are 1 ½ games ahead of the No. 7 seed Minnesota Timberwolves.

All-Time Meetings

The Suns and 76ers have played 132 times dating back to the 1968-69 season, when Phoenix was founded as a franchise. The Suns hold the all-time series lead, 73-59.

Phoenix’s loss to Philadelphia earlier this season snapped a six-game win streak for it in the all-time series.

Keys to a Suns Win

Embiid is one of the biggest defensive challenges in the NBA. Unfortunately for the Suns, they will not have their best center to do it.

Embiid has the ability to stretch the floor and operate out of the post, where he has a complete arsenal of moves. He is listed at 280 pounds but has nimbleness and grace around the rim, where he has great touch.

Embiid also has an impressive fadeaway shot and can create shots for his teammates. He averages fewer than four assists per game but has been an effective passer this month, averaging 4.8 assists per contest.

Philadelphia All-Star guard James Harden appears to be questionable to play the Suns due to an Achilles injury. 76ers coach Doc Rivers said Friday there is a chance Harden will play, and he will provide another huge defensive threat if he plays.

Harden is one of the NBA’s best isolation players and is a triple-double threat. He is first in the NBA in assists per game (10.8) this season.

Philadelphia also has point guard Tyrese Maxey, who averages 20.1 points per game, and two other players who average double figures in scoring: forward Tobias Harris (15.0 points per contest) and guard De’Anthony Melton (10.5 points per contest).

The 76ers have a top-10 offense in multiple categories and are a top-3 team in opponent points per game. The Suns have had no problems scoring of late – they have scored at least 111 points in each of their last four contests – but they have struggled massively on defense without Durant, who can provide a very important two-way impact.

Here is something that may trigger Suns fans: Embiid averages 11.9 free throws per game, which is second behind the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo for most in the league.

With how Phoenix has struggled to defend without fouling of late and the amount of free-throw attempts it has given up, it will be tested to play consistently on that end.


The Suns have struggled lately but have a chance to secure a solid win against the 76ers, who have lost two of three games but are on a positive stretch overall with nine wins in their last 11 games.

Phoenix has been on the other end of close games lately. It does not seem to have the edge tonight with two starters out, but this is a chance to pick up some momentum before Durant’s return.

The Suns will put up a good game against Philadelphia and come out on top in a close game.

Suns 105, 76ers 101

When the game is over, join the Suns JAM Session Podcast as we discuss the game live on YouTube.

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