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Suns Strokes: Suns pull away from 76ers for largest comeback win of season

Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) drives past Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 23, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — It was not in the most convincing fashion or against one of the better teams in the league, but the Phoenix Suns found a way to win Friday night.

Despite the Philadelphia 76ers leading for most of the game, the Suns pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 123-116 victory, the team’s first win in five games and largest comeback win of the season.

The 76ers scored 66 points in the first half, but the Suns outscored them 70-50 in the second half.

Phoenix (9-21) was moving the ball well and looking to exploit one of the worst defenses in the league. The Suns finished with 25 assists, making it the third time the team has finished with at least 25 assists in a game this season.

Starting guards Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe were superb in the second half. Both played a significant part in a 14-2 run to open the half to get the Suns back in the game and Bledsoe, in particular, had a huge fourth quarter, scoring 16 points and dishing out three assists. Bledsoe and Booker combined for 47 points and 17 assists on the night.

While his team lost, 76ers (7-22) center Joel Embiid was the man of the hour. Whether it was a powerful dunk on Marquese Chriss, diving into the stands after attempting to block a shot, or swatting a Suns layup attempt and looking on from his position sitting on the floor and smiling as his team scored, the rookie sensation was everywhere on the highlights. He finished with 27 points and seven rebounds.

THE GOOD

– After a poor first half, the Suns started the second half on fire. A 14-2 run put them within one of the Sixers, led by Booker, who hit two threes.

– Bledsoe took charge in the fourth quarter, making sure his team didn’t extend their losing streak to the worst NBA team in the past three seasons to four. He had nine points and two assists in less than six minutes to start the quarter.

THE BAD

– Philadelphia center Joel Embiid is unlike any NBA player. Marquese Chriss learned this right away, as Embiid took two dribbles to get from just inside the three-point line to the rim in the early first quarter, finishing with a powerful dunk for the and-one. It’s no surprise to see Chriss struggle, having both a 45-pound disadvantage in weight and not playing well defensively on the season. Chriss picked up two fouls early, forcing Watson to put T.J. Warren in early. Embiid had five points in four minutes to start the game.

– Booker picked up his fifth technical foul of the season in the first quarter. He tied Chriss for the most on the team and the fourth-most in the NBA.

STAT OF THE GAME

14: The Suns overcame a 14-point deficit for the win, their largest comeback win of the season.

HE SAID IT

“We can’t wait, to say defend them five years from now,” – head coach Earl Watson on Chriss guarding Embiid.

NOTED

– Brandon Knight entered the game averaging 19 points per game and shooting 56.5 percent from the field in his last two games. Friday night he had 12 points in 15 minutes.

– Phoenix is now 31-16 on either Christmas or their final game before Christmas.

– The Suns are now 6-4 against teams from the Eastern Conference.

– The rookies did not see much playing time. Chriss played seven minutes and Dragan Bender and Tyler Ulis did not make an appearance.

– Bledsoe had his third double-double of the season.

UP NEXT

The Suns have no games on the holiday weekend. They play two games in Texas at the start of next week, with the first being against the Houston Rockets, Monday at 6 p.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

Phoenix learned the hard way what the Rockets and Mike D’Antoni’s high-powered offense is capable of this week. Houston beat the Suns in Phoenix 125-111 Wednesday led by former Arizona State standout James Harden’s 27 points, 14 assists and five rebounds.

Houston made 18 of their 38 three-point attempts, the most the Suns have allowed in a game this season.

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