Sixers 123, Suns 110: Dario Saric and Ben Simmons aggressively lead, and other quick observations

Dario Saric shined in December

The Homie deserves some stand alone praise. He has scored in double figures in the last 16 games and has averaged 17.2 points through the month of December. He finished off 2017 with three consecutive games with 20-or-more points. In the midst of the Sixers losing streak Saric made a public plea for the Sixers to play tough and dirty basketball, wanting to get some gritty wins. He led the Sixers to a win against Denver without Joel Embiid on Saturday, and the next night, against the Suns, he finished with a game-high 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting including 4-of-5 from deep with Embiid on the floor.

Ben Simmons drives

A good example of what was great about Simmons against Phoenix came with 3:34 left to play. He drove hard to the basket, he protected the ball, he didn’t look to pass, his intention was clear, and it didn’t matter how much contact he was going to get, it was all part of the plan. He missed the shot, and he went 1-of-2 at the free throw line. It doesn’t matter that the play was only worth one point, the aggression and purpose with which he drove has been what Simmons has needed to do this whole season and he did it over and over on Sunday. Not only were his drives impressive, getting him to the line where he made 7-of-11, but he stepped up in the fourth quarter and put the team on his back. In the fourth he had 11 points, five rebounds, and made 5-of-9 shots from the charity stripe. Simmons finished the game with 21 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals, and three blocks.

Keeping Devin Booker contained

The first half was a beautiful example of keeping the opponents top scorer in check. The Sixers used multiple weapons to hold Booker to just four first-half points. Of those weapons Robert Covington was a huge part of keeping Booker quiet. The last time they faced the Suns, Booker torched the Sixers for 46 points, and the Sixers didn’t forget that. When Covington found himself in foul trouble in the second half, Booker was allowed to work with a little more freedom and finished the game with 32 points. But, had it not been for the hard work in the first half, Booker might have had a repeat performance.

Foul trouble

Fouling at a high volume is normal for the Sixers, but against Phoenix the fouling bug bit nearly the entire staring unit. By the end of the third quarter all of the Sixers starters, save Saric, had accumulated four fouls a piece. As the fouls started to add up and the Sixers were forced to sit some of their better players in the name of preservation, the Suns started to make a run and nearly took the win away from the Sixers. The Sixers racked up 32 fouls on Sunday, which led to the Suns going 26-of-34 from the free throw line.

Markelle Fultz notes Joel Embiid’s tendency to fall

In the television broadcast of the game, Markelle Fultz was on hand for the post-game interview that also featured, Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, and Ben Simmons. Fultz jokingly said, “Joel fell on the floor a lot.” Yes. He did. He does that a lot. I’d like to just put this out for Joel ‘The Process’ Embiid as a possible New Year’s resolution: Try to stay on your feet, big guy. He’s the franchise player, the Sixers need him to make any noise near a postseason. I know he’s said he’s not made of glass, but even a man of steel doesn’t need to take that many hard falls.