The Sixers’ road trip has been long, winding and a little weird. It’s only fitting that it ended with two starters sidelined by an upper respiratory infection in Phoenix, Joel Embiid posting stellar stats for a game in the first half, and the Sixers nearly blowing a 30-point lead.
With Jimmy Butler and Wilson Chandler out, the Sixers (25-14) finished a 3-2 road trip with a 132-127 win over the Suns.
Embiid had 42 points, tying a season high, and 18 rebounds.
Ben Simmons also had a season high with 29 points, and JJ Redick had 27.
• Even when a matchup appears friendly on the surface, Embiid is always able to add a little extra venom.
After drawing a foul on former teammate Richaun Holmes, he demonstratively suggested, “Get him out.”
JoJo says "GET HIM OUT"— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 3, 2019
He's showing no mercy for former teammate Holmes 😂 pic.twitter.com/sy8tPBwJmI
The next trip down the floor, Embiid pulled off a move few, if any, defenders in the world could stop, a nifty Euro step around Holmes followed by an authoritative dunk.
He eurosteps his way right to the basket for a pair, right around his old teammate. pic.twitter.com/z5opuVLNBX— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 3, 2019
Holmes, No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton and the Suns had no shot of stopping Embiid, who got a typical month’s worth of uncontested dunks in the first half alone.
JOJO JUST BEING UNFAIR NOW. pic.twitter.com/hHiHbw3eai— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 3, 2019
Embiid was the first player with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in a first half since Antwan Jamison on Dec. 30, 2000, per ESPN Stats & Info.
He had 30 points and 14 rebounds in the first half. As a team, the Sixers had 72 points on 36 field goal attempts. They took 32 first-half free throws, half of which came from Embiid.
• The Sixers somehow managed to let the 9-30 Suns cut a lead as large as 30 points down to three in the fourth quarter. Furkan Korkmaz's stepback three-pointer helped ice the win.
Furkan with a big triple!— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 3, 2019
Sixers lead down to just 121-110 now. pic.twitter.com/5yRCCgrdZL
While the lack of depth could be used as an excuse, the Sixers should have finished off both the Clippers and an inferior Suns team much earlier than they ultimately did.
Again, their 17 turnovers, many of which were unforced, aided the opponents’ comeback.
• On his 23rd birthday, Jonah Bolden got the first start of his NBA career.
He posted four points, four rebounds and two assists in 15 minutes.
Bolden has shown on this road trip that he’s capable of switching onto smaller players, a valuable skill on the Sixers given the team’s switch-heavy defensive scheme. He moved his feet well on several occasions when matched up against the Suns guards.
On a negative note, Bolden must eliminate the overzealous fouls. He’s had a few on this road trip, including one on a Kyle Korver four-point play in Utah, and another Wednesday where he closed out in sloppy fashion on T.J. Warren and fouled him behind the arc.
A team with ambitions of an Eastern Conference title can’t afford for their rotation players to consistently make those type of mistakes.
Still, Bolden boosted his stock over the past few games. He’s shown he can provide some of the rim protection and athleticism the Sixers were missing during Embiid’s stints on the bench.
• Simmons didn’t take any jumpers Wednesday night. He didn’t need to against a Suns team physically incapable of handling him in transition or in the post.
He had an excellent first quarter, with 13 points on 3 for 3 shooting from the floor and an impressive 7 for 8 from the foul line. He finished the night 15 for 23 at the line, season highs for both makes and attempts, as the Suns went with a "Hack-a-Simmons" strategy in the final minutes.
• We’ve become accustomed to seeing two-way player Demetrius Jackson when the Sixers are up or down by 25-plus points, not in the first quarter of a game still in the balance.
He joined Simmons and T.J. McConnell in an unconventional lineup in the middle of the first period, a sign of the Sixers’ unique circumstances.
The 6-foot-1 Jackson showed off his hops on a third-quarter alley-oop from Simmons.
Oh it's a party in Phoenix.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 3, 2019
Simmons and Jackson combine for the oop and the Sixers are dominating 97-67. pic.twitter.com/CnwMyhChgU
He also knocked down two three-pointers. Amir Johnson was the only active Sixer not to play.
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