Sixers provide lackluster effort in letdown loss at home to Suns

Sixers provide lackluster effort in letdown loss at home to Suns


Remember those games in recent years when teams simply didn’t bring it against the struggling Sixers?

That’s how the Sixers looked Monday in their 115-101 loss to the Suns (see observations)

“I think we lost that game from the jump ball,” Joel Embiid said. “I think we took them lightly and we paid for it.” 

The Suns, on paper, looked like they could be an easy victory for the Sixers. They entered the game well below .500 (8-16), ranked last in points allowed (115.8) and were tied for the third-highest opponent three-point shooting percentage (47.1). 

Instead, the Suns held the Sixers to nearly 15 points below that average and limited them to 23.3 percent (7 for 30) from three. The Sixers also gave up 22 points off 14 turnovers that included five giveaways in the first quarter alone. 

“We didn’t play our best game,” said Ben Simmons, who pushed through flu-like symptoms to record 20 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and six steals. “Didn’t respect them enough. We didn’t come in with the energy we needed to.”

The performance was a contrast to the Sixers’ solid win over the Pistons on Saturday, and really how tough they’ve been playing this season. Brett Brown said the Sixers lacked “a sting” and described their defense as “flat” as they dropped to 13-10. 

“We’re all disappointed,” JJ Redick said. “That’s not good enough. That’s not our team. That’s not who we’ve been. I can’t give you a reason why, whether it’s we overlooked them or I don’t know. I don’t know. That was not our team.” 

The Sixers had no answer for Devin Booker as he scored a season-high 46 points in less than 40 minutes (see highlights). Booker actually started out a slow 2 for 11 in the first quarter, but the Sixers didn’t take advantage of his early struggles. They were tied after the first quarter and, after Booker scored 10 in the second, trailed by 13 at halftime. 

Booker went on to score 19 points in just eight minutes in the fourth as the Suns fended off a Sixers’ comeback attempt. 

“You have to guard him is what you have to do,” Brown said. “And we didn’t.” 

The Sixers are trying to compile a playoff-qualifying record this season. Each game, whether it is against the defending champion Warriors or a seemingly lottery-bound team like the Suns, needs to be approached with the same level of attention and energy. That wasn’t the case on Monday. 

“A game like this is without a doubt a missed opportunity,” Brown said. “You only have so many times that you’re able to poke yourself in the eye. Tonight was one of those for us here at home. We walk out of this gym not feeling great at all about very much of what we did tonight.”

The Sixers will have to bring a higher level of intensity Thursday when they host another young team, the Lakers. They could get some of that "sting" back if T.J. McConnell (sprained AC joint, left shoulder) is cleared to play. The backup point guard is hopeful he will be available but isn't going to force a return if he is limited.

Ben Simmons shrugs off mental fatigue with another triple-double

Ben Simmons shrugs off mental fatigue with another triple-double


Around 6 p.m., Ben Simmons spoke about mental fatigue and the frustrations it can cause. 

An hour later, he hit the court and posted an 11-point, 12-rebound, 15-assist triple-double … with zero turnovers.

“I wish he was more mentally fatigued in the future,” Brett Brown said with a laugh. 

The 21-year-old rookie may be feeling the weight of his first NBA season, but he certainly didn’t show it Monday in the Sixers’ 108-94 win over the Hornets (see observations)

Simmons recorded his third triple-double in the last four games. He exhibited disciplined court vision by finding his teammates with a high level of ease and chemistry that’s been developing over the season (see highlights).

“I was trusting them to knock down shots,” Simmons simply put it. “They make it easy for me.”

Simmons became the first rookie in the NBA to record a triple-double with 15 assists and no turnovers. Only David Robinson and Andre Iguodala had reached a triple-double without an error as rookies. 

Simmons considers his assists and turnovers to be the most meaningful stats of the triple-double, noting his turnovers usually are caused by mental errors. 

"That’s amazing," Joel Embiid said. "To be able to make the right reads and not turn the ball over, there’s a few guys in the league that can do that ... that just shows you that he can be a great point guard."

The 6-foot-10 point guard is averaging 16.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game over 34 minutes. With each game that passes, Simmons continues to be linked with the feats of Hall of Famers. From joining in the same company as Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson to moving ahead of Allen Iverson for most 10-assist games by a Sixers rookie, his performances are often tied back to historical markers. 

“I think people get caught up in how many points I score every game,” Simmons said. “It’s not about that. It’s a matter of points that we’re getting as a team and how many stops we get … 

"People are always going to say I need to do certain things but I know what I’m capable of and I know what I’m really good at.”

LeBron continues triple-double tour

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LeBron continues triple-double tour

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 40 points as part of his third triple-double in four games and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 124-117 on Monday night as coach Tyronn Lue began his leave of absence to address health issues.

Lue said Monday in a statement he been dealing with chest pains and loss of sleep, and that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is. Associate head coach Larry Drew will run the team in Lue's absence.

James scored 17 points in the third quarter and finished with 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his 16th triple-double this season and 71st of his career.

The four-time MVP took over in the third beginning with back-to-back 3-pointers. After not getting a foul called on a third attempt, he finished Cleveland's next possession with a massive dunk. He was fouled attempting another dunk and made both free throws the following time down.

Milwaukee cut a 17-point lead to 117-109, but James drove the length of the floor for a dunk with just over a minute left.

Cavaliers All-Star forward Kevin Love returned after missing six weeks because of a broken left hand and scored 18 points in 25 minutes. He sparked a 10-0 run in the second quarter with two 3-pointers

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 37 points and went 11 for 11 at the foul line for Milwaukee, which is seventh in the Eastern Conference. Khris Middleton had 30 points, making 11 of 16 from the field (see full recap).

Heat set franchise scoring mark in 2OT win
MIAMI -- James Johnson scored a career-high 31 points, Kelly Olynyk added 30 off the bench and the Miami Heat set a franchise single-game scoring record by beating the Denver Nuggets 149-141 in double overtime Monday night.

Miami's total was also an NBA season-high and helped the Heat get back to the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Houston and Oklahoma City each scored 148 in games earlier this season.

Wayne Ellington scored 29 points for the Heat. Nikola Jokic had 34 for Denver, while Wilson Chandler added 26 for the Nuggets.

"That was as playoffs as it comes right there," Olynyk said.

The NBA's stat system crashed late in the first overtime, and crews were scrambling to determine the final numbers long after the buzzer. All that ultimately mattered was the score -- one that moved the Heat closer to a playoff berth and left the Nuggets two games back in the Western Conference race.

Neither team was at full strength. For Miami, Dwyane Wade (left hamstring strain) missed his fourth consecutive game, and Hassan Whiteside (left hip pain) sat out his fifth straight contest. Denver was without leading scorer Gary Harris, sidelined again by a strained right knee that could keep him out several more days (see full recap).

Oladipo, Pacers rally past Lakers
INDIANAPOLIS -- Victor Oladipo sparked a decisive run and finished with 20 points, Myles Turner had 21 points and the Indiana Pacers recovered from a poor start for a 110-100 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night.

The victory snapped Indiana's two-game losing streak.

Los Angeles was led by Kyle Kuzma with 27 points and Brook Lopez with 23, but the Lakers still lost their third straight.

Oladipo and Darren Collison got Indiana going with back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the third quarter for a 77-70 lead. After a layup from Julius Randle, Collison made a 20-footer and Lance Stephenson hit a 10-footer. When the 14-4 flurry ended, Indiana led 85-74 with 3:04 left in the third.

The Lakers never seriously challenged after that.

It was a stark contrast to the Lakers' fast start. Efficient shooting helped them take a 28-19 lead in the first quarter, but when the shooters cooled off, the Pacers charged back and used a 15-6 second-quarter run to make it 51-50 late in the period.

The Pacers still trailed 59-57 at the half -- before Oladipo helped flip things in the second half (see full recap).