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.

Ben Simmons healing on schedule; Joel Embiid out tonight; Jahlil Okafor downgraded

Ben Simmons healing on schedule; Joel Embiid out tonight; Jahlil Okafor downgraded

Ben Simmons had a planned foot scan Monday in New York and is progressing as expected.

Simmons suffered a Jones fracture in his right foot nearly four months ago, Sept. 30, and there is still no timetable for his NBA debut.

Okafor downgraded
Jahlil Okafor was limited at shootaround Tuesday and has been downgraded to questionable for tonight's game against the Clippers. He had been listed as probable on Monday.

Okafor is dealing with right knee soreness he experienced on Saturday. The Sixers kept an eye on him Monday and held him out of 5-on-5 drills in practice. Okafor said the team was being cautious, and he wanted to rest his knee given the number of games coming up.

"It was bothering me a little bit in the warmup lines, I started to feel it. When I got going, it started feeling really good, then when I sat out for an extended period, it got kind of sore on me again," Okafor said Monday.

Embiid out
Joel Embiid, dealing with a left knee contusion suffered in last Friday's win over Portland, is officially out tonight. He is also expected to miss Wednesday's game at Milwaukee before returning Friday vs. the Rockets.

Sixers-Clippers 5 things: Big men, minus Joel Embiid, in the spotlight

Sixers-Clippers 5 things: Big men, minus Joel Embiid, in the spotlight

The Sixers (15-27) on Tuesday night open their latest back-to-back set against the LA Clippers (30-16) at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m./CSN, CSNPhilly.com and streaming live on the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Missing in action
The Sixers are used to missing Joel Embiid for at least one game of back-to-back sets. However, they will have to forge ahead without him in both contests coming up on consecutive days.

Embiid will miss the Sixers' games on Tuesday and Wednesday after suffering a left knee contusion in the team's 93-92 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. The matchups will mark three straight absences for the Eastern Conference Player of the Week after he was sidelined for the Sixers' blowout loss in Atlanta Saturday.

The Sixers haven't exactly been able to survive without Embiid's production this season. They are 2-10 minus the Rookie of the Year frontrunner and have allowed 106.5 points in those games.

Brett Brown challenged his team to perform better — particularly on defense — during this upcoming stint without Embiid.

“It’s still about our defense, it’s still about running, it’s still about sharing the ball,” Brown said after practice Monday. “I think you go with Jahlil (Okafor) and Nerlens (Noel) and challenge them in relation to rim protection and what Joel provides us. The group around them also has got to perform at a higher level when you don’t have Joel. I think that second group that we have been playing, led by Nerlens, really can take on a far greater defensive identity than it has recently, and Nerlens will be the captain of that.”

2. The Blake Show is back
While the Sixers will be without their star big man in Tuesday's tilt, the Clippers are expected to get one of theirs back.

Blake Griffin is likely to return to action against the Sixers after missing 18 games following right knee surgery.

Griffin was averaging 21.2 points and 8.8 rebounds this season as the Clippers jumped out to a 20-6 record. Griffin underwent an arthroscopic procedure to remove loose bodies from the knee on Dec. 19, and the Clips have recorded just a 10-8 mark since.

With fellow superstar Chris Paul sidelined with an injured thumb, getting the five-time All-Star Griffin back should be a major boost for the Clippers.

3. Take care
The Clippers may not be the force they once were in the open court (15th in the NBA with 12.7 fastbreak points per game this season), but that doesn't mean they still can't revert to their Lob City ways in the blink of an eye.

That could be the case on Tuesday if the Sixers continue to turn the ball over at such an alarming rate.

The Sixers, last in the league with 17.1 turnovers per game, have somehow been even worse during this recent string of success. They have committed 19.4 turnovers a night over the last five games and 17.8 during the last 10 contests.

The Sixers have been able to survive thanks to their active defense creating opportunities on offense and some clutch shooting. However, with Embiid sidelined and facing a Clippers team that ranks in the top five in field-goal and three-point percentage, those miscues may come back to haunt the Sixers.

4. Injuries
Okafor (knee) is questionable. Embiid (knee), Ben Simmons (foot) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Griffin (knee) is probable. Paul (thumb) and Brice Johnson (back) are out for the Clippers.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost nine straight games to the Clippers.

• Ersan Ilyasova is averaging 17.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game during January.

• DeAndre Jordan has averaged a double-double of 11.3 points and 12.8 rebounds against the Sixers in his career.