Instant Replay: Suns 124, Sixers 113

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Instant Replay: Suns 124, Sixers 113

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The Sixers knew the Phoenix Suns rely heavily on their guard-oriented style and still couldn’t stop it.

The Sixers allowed guards Goran Dragic and Gerald Green to combine for 54 points in their 124-113 loss to the Suns at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night.

The loss was the Sixers’ third in a row and dropped their record to 14-31.

Turning point
The Sixers had taken better care of the basketball of late, averaging 13 turnovers over their last four games.

That went out the window against the Suns. The Sixers turned it over 21 times, which led to 33 points for Phoenix.

Follow the leader
Michael Carter-Williams finished with a team-high 22 points. Evan Turner had 21 points. He was 7 of 12 from the floor and 6 of 6 from the foul line.

Thaddeus Young also had 21 points to go with three rebounds and three steals.

Green led Phoenix in scoring with 30 points on 10 of 12 shooting. Dragic scored 24 points on 9 of 13 shooting and had seven assists.

Phoenix’s starting backcourt duo was a combined 19 for 25 from the floor (76 percent), including 7 for 9 from three-point range.

Center Miles Plumlee posted his 10th double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Stat-egic
The Sixers had 11 of their shots blocked in the first meeting between these two teams back on Dec. 28.

The Suns actually improved on that mark Monday night, swatting 12 Sixer shots in the game. It marked the 11th time this season the Sixers have had at least 11 shots blocked in a game.

The Suns entered Monday’s matchup averaging 4.8 blocks per game.

Take a bow
One day after scoring 27 points and grabbing a season-high 15 rebounds, Philadelphia native Markieff Morris made 5 of 7 attempts for 13 points. He also had four of those aforementioned blocks.

Morris’ twin brother, Marcus, finished with four points.

What’s next?
The Sixers play the Celtics on Wednesday in Boston, the first of four meetings between the division rivals.

The Celtics -- like the Sixers -- have struggled this season. They have a 15-31 record at this point and will face the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday before taking on the Sixers.

Jeff Green leads Boston in scoring with 16 points per game.

Rajon Rondo has returned to the Celtics’ lineup after tearing his ACL last season. The All-Star point guard has played in five games so far, all Boston losses. He is averaging 6.6 points, 5.8 assists and 4.2 rebounds in 23.8 minutes a night.

Boston is under the direction of Brad Stevens, who is in his first year as an NBA head coach.

Sixers burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

Sixers burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

The Sixers had been burned by point guards before. Many times, actually. 

Just a week ago, Kyrie Irving dropped 39 points in the Cavs' 112-108 win. Nineteen came in the decisive fourth quarter. 

On Saturday Isaiah Thomas did the same damage. The undersized All-Star tied his season-high with 37 points in the Celtics' comeback 107-106 victory (see instant replay).

“Isaiah’s an All-Star,” Jahlil Okafor said. “He showed us why tonight. He’s the head of their team and came up big for them like he usually does.” 

Thomas made his impact in spurts. During the Celtics' 9-0 second quarter run, he scored six of those points. In the fourth quarter, in which the game was decided, he dropped 12 straight Celtics points. Thomas finished the night 11 for 19 for the field and only 2 of 3 from three. 

The most telling stat was at the free throw line. Thomas shot 13 for 15 after attacking and drawing fouls, a point of emphasis by head coach Brad Stevens for the second half. 

Thomas scored 15 points in the first half. He noticed a change in the Sixers defense in the second and capitalized on it. The Celtics ability to stretch the floor with their three-point shooting bigs also created opportunities for Thomas to get to the rim. 

“In the second half they sat back a little bit and they were switching a lot,” Thomas explained, also noting, “We wanted to put Okafor in a pick-and-roll. He sits far back. I just wanted to attack him downhill. It’s hard for bigs to move those bigs legs they’ve got. So I just tried to stay in attack mode and I saw we were in the bonus.”

The Sixers have had problems defending the one spot all season. Isaiah Thomas is the fifth starting point guard to score 30 points or more against them. He joins Russell Westbrook (32), Jeff Teague (30 in overtime), James Harden (33) and Irving. Another five (Kemba Walker, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry) have scored 20 or more points. 

The oneness of these high-scoring point guards doesn’t fall solely on the Sixers backcourt, where Sergio Rodriguez has been assuming the starting role in place of the oft-injured Jerryd Bayless. These opponents have been doing their work inside the arc. Of the five who have scored 30, only two (Harden and Irving) attempted more than three treys. 

“We’re all working hard trying to stop them, but it’s easier said than done,” Okafor said. 

The next point guard the Sixers will face is Emmanuel Mudiay when they take on the Nuggets Monday. Last season Mudiay hit the game-winning, buzzer-beating three in Denver. 

Instant Replay: Celtics 107, Sixers 106

Instant Replay: Celtics 107, Sixers 106

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Rewind 24 hours.

The Sixers were walking off the court Friday night after a dismal blowout loss to the Magic that left Brett Brown reflecting on Saturday, “Here in Philadelphia, at home, that’s not good enough.”

The Sixers had lacked fire and grit, especially with Joel Embiid on the floor against a sub-.500 Magic team that had played the night before in Memphis. 

They had a day to turn it around. A playoff contending Celtics squad was coming to town and Embiid wasn’t available because of his back-to-back limitations. The shorthanded Sixers (see below) had a tall task ahead of them. 

The Sixers reacted by jumping out early and kept the Celtics at bay in the first half. Even when the Celtics cut their lead to three midway through the second quarter, the Sixers responded with an 8-0 burst to go up by a game-high 11 points. 

The Celtics exposed the Sixers' defensive void in the paint without Embiid in the third. With the Sixers up 65-58, Isaiah Thomas drew a foul against Jahlil Okafor. That play sparked a 9-0 Celtics run over the next two minutes, in which Thomas scored six of those points (including four at the line). The Celtics took back the lead during that stretch and forced the Sixers to play catchup.

The Sixers cut the Celtics lead to one in the fourth with a three from Dario Saric, who played one of his most aggressive games of his short NBA career. After the Celtics jumped back up by seven, the Sixers kept fighting and tied the game 100 apiece. The Celtics were able to pull away and finished with a one-point win, 107-106, after Ersan Ilyasova drained a three at the buzzer. 

Inside the stats
Thomas exploded for 37 points (11 for 19 from the field, 2 for 3 from three, 13 for 15 from the line), four rebounds, and seven assists.

Saric recorded a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds off the bench, both tying career-highs. 

Ersan Ilyasova dropped 18 points, including three treys, and six rebounds.

Okafor and Sergio Rodriguez scored 15 apiece, with Rodriguez adding eight assists. 

Avery Bradley dropped 20 points and nine rebounds. 

Stauskas starts in place of Covington
Brown turned to shooting guard Nik Stauskas to slide over to the three spot in place of the injured Robert Covington (see below). 

“Boston’s perimeter defense is as good as it is in the NBA,” Brown explained. “I think you need to have more ball handlers, people who can make a play, on the perimeter … I feel that Nik has that ability to put it to the floor and disrupt that aggressive pressure that the Celtics backcourt can put on you.”

Broken ankles
Saric came up with the Sixers' highlight play of the game when he did this to Jonas Jerebko in the third quarter for an instant highlight reel moment. 

Always a student
Not playing, still learning. Embiid has been praised for being an eager student of the game. During warmups he sat courtside to watch film on a laptop even though he wasn’t suiting up. 

Injury updates
Joel Embiid is not playing in back-to-back games and sat out the back end of this home-home series for rest … Robert Covington sat out with a sprained left knee he suffered on Friday after colliding with T.J. McConnell chasing a ball out of bounds … Jerryd Bayless missed his fourth straight game with left wrist soreness. 

Up next
The Sixers host the Nuggets on Monday night.