PHOENIX – The 76ers are streaking again. This time, it’s in a positive direction.
After beating the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, they kept their momentum going with a 123-110 victory Sunday night over the Phoenix Suns. This triumph at the Talking Stick Resort Arena had to feel good.
This victory did much more than give the Sixers (17-19) their first winning streak since taking three straight victories from Nov. 20 to 25. They also swept back-to-back games for the first time this season. And the Sixers avenged a 14-point setback to the Suns (14-24) on Dec. 4.
The visitors did have a scare, though.
Joel Embiid crashed hard to court with 3 minutes, 54 seconds remaining after colliding with Devin Booker near midcourt while leaping after the ball. The center landed on his back, hurting his right hand. Embiid grabbed his hand and grimaced in pain. He remained in the game, but kept shaking and rubbing the hand.
After the game, Embiid had an X-rays, which were negative.
“They said it wasn’t broken,” he said. “They think it was sprained. So, I guess, that’s the good news.”
Embiid said his hand was numb the remainder of the game. He didn’t attempt a shot following the accident. However, he went on to grab three rebounds and block a shot before leaving the game with 41 seconds left.
“I’m a warrior,” said Embiid. “I want to push through stuff. I want to play. I wanted to be on the court to win the game. That’s what we did.”
Embiid thinks his hand will be fine. The Sixers’ franchise player is also battling back tightness and recovering from left knee surgery.
But on this night, he was involved in an interesting matchup.
The Sixers blew a sizable lead, battled back from a deficit and made clutch shots to en route to taking their double-digit victory.
Dario Saric paced the Sixers with 27 points. Embiid and JJ Redick both added 22 points, apiece. Embiid also had nine rebounds, five assists, two blocks and seven turnovers after missing Saturday’s game due to not being cleared to play on consecutive nights.
Ben Simmons had 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting. The point guard added nine rebounds, six assists, three steals, three blocks and five turnovers. Eleven of his points came on 3-for-3 shooting and making 5 of 9 foul shots in the fourth quarter.
“I know coach needs me to be more aggressive offensively. So I definitely had to do that this game,” said Simmons, who produced his highest points total in 10 games. “I think we’re just in a good rhythm right now, and we’re getting better at closing out games, knowing what we need to do.”
Suns shooting guard Devin Booker finished with a game-high 32 points after scoring 46 against the Sixers on Dec. 4.
Early on, the Sixers had a comfortable cushion. They led by 18 points on three occasions before things began to unravel.
With his team up 72-54, Embiid picked up his fourth foul with 9:37 left in the third quarter. The Suns took advantage of his absence and maintained the momentum once he returned. Phoenix went on a 33-12 run to take a 87-84 lead on Josh Jackson’s basket with 2:26 left in the quarter.
Embiid, however, went on to score eight of the team’s next 12 points to give the Sixers a 96-92 cushion with 11:06 left. But the Suns wouldn’t go away. Booker’s three-pointer with 5:44 left closed the gap to one (105-104). Ben Simmons responded with a layup and a pair of foul shots on consecutive possessions to extend the Sixers lead to five points. After a Suns basket, Simmons added another foul shot. Then Redick and Simmons added baskets to give the Sixers a 114-106 lead with 2:22 to play.
Redick came back to hit a three-pointer with 1:31 left gave the Sixers a commanding 119-108 advantage.
“In the fourth quarter, it’s on our back all of the time that we can’t win the end of game,” Saric said. “People start to talk. Coaches start to talk and the last two games, we showed in the fourth quarters how we need to play, how we are tough at the end of the game.”