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.

NBA Playoffs: Raptors advance past Bucks despite blowing 25-point lead

NBA Playoffs: Raptors advance past Bucks despite blowing 25-point lead

MILWAUKEE -- DeMar DeRozan scored 32 points and the Toronto Raptors squandered a 25-point lead late in the third quarter before holding on for a 92-89 victory Thursday night over the Milwaukee Bucks to take their first-round playoff series in six games.

Cory Joseph had five points in a 9-0 run in the final 2 minutes, including a 3-pointer with 1:27 left, to help stave off the pesky Bucks.

The Raptors move on to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals in a series that starts Monday. They'll need to work on finishing off opponents in the second half.

Jason Terry's 3 with 3:06 left gave the Bucks an 80-78 lead, completing an unlikely comeback from the 25-point deficit with 5:16 left in the third quarter. The Raptors looked as if they were on cruise control after DeMarre Carroll's 3 gave them the 71-46 advantage.

Giannis Antetokounmpo spearheaded the second-half rally for Milwaukee. He had 34 points.

But the Bucks finished one comeback short.

The furious effort appeared to sap the energy of the young Bucks. Even Antetokounmpo, a renowned gym rat, looked tired with his hands on hips as he caught his breath during fourth-quarter breaks. He played 47 minutes.

Antetokounmpo finished 13 of 23 from the field but was 2 of 6 in the fourth.

The Raptors could finally breathe easy after DeRozan went 2 of 2 from the foul line with 3.1 seconds to play for a three-point lead. Tony Snell's inbounds pass on the ensuing possession was intercepted by DeRozan (see full recap).

Spurs advance: San Antonio beats Grizzlies 103-96 in Game 6
NASHVILLE, Tennessee -- Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points, helping the San Antonio Spurs advance to the Western Conference semifinals by beating the Memphis Grizzlies 103-96 Thursday night to take the series 4-2.

The Spurs now have beaten Memphis four of the five playoff series between these teams, and this was San Antonio's second straight win over the Grizzlies in the first round.

Tony Parker added 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting, while LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 12 rebounds. Patty Mills had 10 points off the bench for the Spurs. San Antonio outrebounded Memphis 46-28, with 16 of those offensive boards. That led to 17 second-chance points.

Their semifinal with Houston will start Monday night in San Antonio.

Mike Conley scored 26 points, leading the five Memphis starters in double digits. Marc Gasol added 18, Zach Randolph 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Vince Carter had 12 points (see full recap).

Sixers 2016-17 player evaluation: Ben Simmons

Sixers 2016-17 player evaluation: Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons

Position: Point guard? Power forward? TBD

Status for 2017-18: Guaranteed — $6,168,840

Simmons in 2016-17
Ben Simmons missed the entire 2016-17 season after suffering a Jones fracture in his right foot on the final day of training camp.

He was ruled out officially in late February when a scan revealed his foot had not fully healed. Simmons was cleared to advance his training in mid-April.

This season was one of learning for Simmons. The Sixers implemented a multifaceted rehab program to improve his health, education and shot. This included studying game film with Brett Brown and working closely with shooting coach John Townsend.

Simmons also joined the Sixers to experience life on the road. During these trips, he spent time with point guard Jerryd Bayless, who is serving as a veteran go-to as Simmons learns the NBA backcourt.

Signature game
Since Simmons did not appear in a game, let's modify here. Simmons was no stranger to showing off his skills during pregame warmups, including this dunk in Indiana.

Looking ahead to 2017-18
Simmons' first step to prepare for next season is five-on-five work. The Sixers have to determine if that will include his participating in the summer league. This seems unlikely given Simmons' lack of full-contact basketball activity with his own team and the fact he was limited last summer when healthy.

The second step is learning the point guard position. The Sixers plan to start Simmons at the one next season, a role in which they believe Simmons can thrive because of his athleticism and court vision.

The Sixers will work with Simmons to continue improving his shot, specifically hitting free throws and finishing at the basket with both hands.

On Simmons
"I think that the question about whether or not Ben Simmons is a point guard or not, that will play itself out over time. But I don't think there's going to be a quick answer there. I know there's a commitment by the staff to make that happen."

Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo

"What I left Stockton (training camp) being so excited about was that he is an elite, potentially, defensive player. So was his father that I coached for five years. It's in his bloodline." 

Sixers head coach Brett Brown