PHOENIX — The Sixers jumped on the third quarter roller coaster Sunday night in Phoenix, and held on for a 123-110 win over the Suns, a score that doesn't reflect how close the second half was.
An 18-point lead dwindled away over 10 minutes in the third until the Sixers were hanging on to a three-point advantage heading into the fourth.
Like the Sixers did to the Nuggets the night before, the Suns staged a comeback with a 28-10 run in the third to change the tone of the game and turn the fourth into a battle.
The Sixers held the Suns scoreless in the final 1:31 to prevail with their second win of this three-game road trip. With this victory, the Sixers won back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 20-25.
• Joel Embiid took a hard fall late in the third and came up grabbing his right hand. He stayed in the game, tallying 22 points, nine rebounds and five assists on the night. Embiid said his hand is not broken and thinks it is a strain (see story).
• The Suns were active fouling Ben Simmons in the fourth. He shot 5 of 9 from the line in the final quarter. Simmons posted 21 points, nine rebounds, six dimes, three steals and three blocks.
"I know coach needs me to be more aggressive offensively, so I definitely had to do that this game," he said.
• Dario Saric led the Sixers with another strong offensive outing, with 27 points off 4 for 5 three-point shooting. He is averaging 24.0 points in his last three games.
"I need to stay focused and believing in myself, believing in what I am doing on the court," Saric said. "The last couple of games I've had some good games."
JJ Redick added 22 points.
• Devin Booker, who dominated the Sixers with 46 points in their previous game, still did damage. He scored 32 points after only four in the first half. While the focus is on Booker, TJ Warren posed problems with 28 points (11 in the first quarter).
"It had to be a team effort," Brett Brown said of defending Booker. "I think we did a really good job. He's really hard to guard. If you weren't coaching against him, he's somebody you would pay to go see. He's got a real balance and a real ability to put points on the board."
• Yet again, turnovers came into play. The Sixers committed seven of their 21 in the third.
• Tempo was a focal point of this game. Players and coach alike could be heard from the court yelling to push the ball and get back on defense.
• In a matchup reminiscent of practices of the past, T.J. McConnell and Isaiah Canaan were matched up at point guard. All that was missing was a guest appearance by JaKarr Sampson. The Suns signed Canaan in mid-December as a backup.
• Markelle Fultz continued on with the team to Phoenix. He was working with coaches on individuals drills before the game.
Fultz jersey sighting around the arena hours before the game.— Jessica Camerato (@JCameratoNBCS) December 31, 2017
• There was a strong cheering section for former University of Arizona players Jerryd Bayless and McConnell. Bayless saw a bump in minutes (25) after Saturday’s 14-point performance.
• Justin Anderson (shin splints) was inactive for the second straight game.