EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Suns work through typical turnover problems to defeat 76ers

Mar 20, 2024, 10:12 PM

Jusuf Nurkic #20 of the Phoenix Suns passes over Kyle Lowry #7 of the Philadelphia 76ers during the...

Jusuf Nurkic #20 of the Phoenix Suns passes over Kyle Lowry #7 of the Philadelphia 76ers during the first half at Footprint Center on March 20, 2024 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — While it was a by-the-books 115-102 victory for the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday in terms of how they pulled away from the shorthanded Philadelphia 76ers, none of the action dispelled the notions surrounding the team’s uninspiring play.

Wednesday was essentially a dress rehearsal at the start of the Suns’ important four-game stretch to take care of business where they can in the schedule before it gets challenging. Philadelphia has been below average without Joel Embiid (left knee meniscus procedure) and was also missing Tobias Harris (right ankle sprain) and De’Anthony Melton (lumbar spine bone stress).

All-Star guard Tyrese Maxey still presented a threat and the 76ers are rounded out by veterans like Buddy Hield, Kyle Lowry, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Nic Batum. That and defensive mind Nick Nurse at the helm made Wednesday a test of sorts.

A better effort on defense and the glass should have made this a more encouraging result for Phoenix than what it was.

Phoenix committed 23 turnovers the 76ers scored 29 points off of. Over-passing has played its usual part in that.

“Trying to make the right play,” Suns forward Kevin Durant said of the turnovers. “Trying to make the extra pass. … We had good intentions, it just didn’t work out.”

The Suns’ out-of-sorts nature, a funk all over them at the end of their road trip, didn’t wear off with travel. If it wasn’t for Phoenix’s 12 offensive rebounds and 11 second-chance points in the first quarter, it would have trailed a lot more than a 23-21 scoreline.

Philly (38-31) eventually spiraled in the second quarter and the Suns’ ball movement picked up to capitalize how much it was playing off shooters. Eight triples helped put Phoenix (40-29) at a comfortable 15-point lead late in the first half. Devin Booker assisted five of those, leading the charge with that effort.

Grayson Allen’s third time this season tying the franchise record of nine 3s en route to 32 points thanks to that scheme was the boost the Suns required offensively to get the job done. Phoenix made 19 total as a team and had 34 assists.

Most of the game was still soaked with the feeling of watching someone go through something that looks like a chore. There was a persistent amount of effort and mental mistakes.

Plays like this one, failing to match up with elite shooter Buddy Hield off a make, is the behavior of a 25-win team.

It continued.

The 76ers got within nine midway through the third quarter while Phoenix continued to stumble, setting up potential disaster in the fourth quarter. But the Suns found a 17-2 run to close out the rest of the third period after that point to have a 24-point edge.

That’s when the Sixers began knocking down 3s and Phoenix kept not closing out on the shooters as if the game was over and with a complete lack of urgency the worst team in the final frame should have. Philly cut it to 11 with under six minutes to go before Phoenix rallied enough of a response to eliminate the chance of anything eventful occurring.

Booker finished one rebound shy of his first triple-double in the regular season with 18 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists.

It was a night to forget offensively for Bradley Beal after he really found a flow the last few games but his effort defensively chasing around Maxey made a difference. Maxey scored six points and shot 3-of-13. Beal was 1-of-6 for three points, six rebounds, seven assists and five turnovers.

“He was the guy at the point of attack and he did a phenomenal job,” head coach Frank Vogel said of Beal defending Maxey.

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