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.