6 observations from Sixers-Suns

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6 observations from Sixers-Suns

BOX SCORE

Though the weather outside has dipped to sub-arctic temperatures, the Phoenix Suns had little difficulty heating up at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday night.

The Suns hit their first six shots and were hitting at a torrid 77 percent clip after a quarter. That was enough to help Phoenix hold off the Sixers, 124-113 (see Instant Replay).

The loss was the Sixers’ third in a row as they fell to 14-31, 8½ games off the pace in the Atlantic Division.

Here are a few observations from Monday’s game:

1. Comin’ out gunnin’
The Suns shot 77 percent (17 for 22) during the first quarter in part because they got wide-open shots close to the basket. Of the 22 shots in the opening frame, Phoenix took 13 of them in the paint. The Suns also went 3 for 4 from three-point land in the quarter and were 8 for 9 on shots outside of the paint.

Meanwhile, the Sixers struggled despite getting plenty of shots from up close. Through the first quarter, the Sixers went 6 for 18 from the paint and were 12 for 32 in the paint during the first half.

2. Men in the middle
The Suns had a big advantage in the paint with four players 6-foot-11 or taller positioned in the frontcourt. Most active for Phoenix was second-year center Miles Plumlee, who got eight of his 14 points and six of his 13 rebounds in the opening quarter.

Plumlee wasn’t nearly as effective when Sixers coach Brett Brown made the adjustments and the Suns’ looks in the paint dried up, but by that point the damage was done.

3. Watch your mouth …
The Sixers picked up a season-high four technical fouls on Monday night, with Brown, Evan Turner and Thad Young each getting hit for one, while the team got charged one as well. For Turner, it was his third of the season and Young has a career-high two T’s this year.

Perhaps the Sixers were feeling a little hot under the collar early on. After all, Brown called a timeout just 25 seconds into the game when P.J. Tucker scored an easy, wide-open layup in a half-court set.

Can’t say we fault Brown for getting a little peeved over such an easy basket.

4. Men in the middle, part 2
The Suns set a building record with eight blocked shots during the first half. With 12 blocks in the game, the Suns have 23 blocks in two games against the Sixers. The Suns came into the game ranked 17th in the NBA in blocked shots, but the Sixers lead the NBA in having shots blocked and have had at least 10 shots blocked in 12 games this season.

And though they play only twice in a season, the Suns have recorded 9.6 percent of their blocked shots in games against the Sixers.

5. Pick your poison
While the Sixers were able to shore up the defense in the paint, holding the Suns to 7 for 20 in the paint during the second and third quarters, the Sixers had no remedy for guards Gerald Green or Goran Dragic.

The pair combined to shoot 19 for 25, including 7 for 9 on three-pointers for 54 points. Green led all scorers with 30 points.

6. If they’re free …
The Sixers took only 13 shots during the third quarter, but went 14 for 15 from the foul line. The team shot a season-best 25 for 26 in the game, including 7 for 7 from Michael Carter-Williams and 6 for 6 from Turner.

Of course the Suns went 14 for 16 from the line in the third quarter and 28 for 33 in the game. That pretty much nullified the Sixers’ good showing.

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

OKLAHOMA CITY -- James Harden scored 21 points, and the Houston Rockets overcame Russell Westbrook's seventh consecutive triple-double to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99 on Friday night.

Harden also had 12 assists and nine rebounds to help the Rockets win their fifth straight. Houston withstood Harden's 6-for-23 shooting effort.

Westbrook finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He has the longest triple-double streak since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989. The most in a row is nine by Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain in March 1968.

It was Westbrook's 12th triple-double this season and the 49th of his career. He is the NBA's active leader in the category and ranks sixth all-time.

The Thunder had won the previous six games during Westbrook's triple-double binge (see full story).

James moves into 9th on scoring list as Cavs top Heat
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 27 points to move into ninth place on the NBA scoring list, and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Miami Heat 114-84 on Friday night.

James passed Elvin Hayes on a driving layup with 6:58 remaining and has 27,315 career points. The four-time MVP was removed about a minute later and received a loud ovation from the Cleveland crowd.

Kevin Love, a game-time decision because of back spasms, scored a team-high 28 points and had 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers. He missed the morning shootaround but was in the lineup after warming up on the court about an hour before tip-off.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points for the Cavs, who have won three straight after losing three in a row.

Derrick Williams scored 17 points to lead the short-handed Heat, who have lost four straight (see full story). 

Schroder has career-high 33, Hawks rally past Bucks
MILWAUKEE -- Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 33 points and the Atlanta Hawks rallied from 20 down in the second half to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-110 on Friday night.

Paul Millsap had 23 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 18.

The Hawks, who ended a seven-game losing streak Wednesday with a win over Miami, trailed by 20 at halftime. A 40-point third quarter put them back in the game.

Jabari Parker scored 27 for Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo, in foul trouble throughout the game, had 14.

Atlanta pulled ahead 105-103 on Kyle Korver's jumper with 3:15 remaining, giving the Hawks their first lead since early in the game (see full story). 

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."