There’s something about these Monday games.
The Sixers come out flat while fans seem hungover from the start of a new work week and whatever the Eagles did the day before.
Last night’s crowd ran the gamut of emotions, booing the Sixers off the court after Devin Booker drained a three-pointer to put the Phoenix Suns up 13 midway through the second quarter. That displeasure disappeared during the ensuing timeout, when the Sixers dunk squad fired a bunch of t-shirts into the crowd before Brian Westbrook was shown on the jumbotron to a raucous ovation.
That’s all it takes to get the crowd back in it – free shit and a former Eagle.
But the Sixers never got back in it. They made some nice runs in the late third and early fourth quarter, but it seemed like they ran into a momentum killer every single time it happened. Jerryd Bayless was whistled for a technical. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot got nailed with a tough flagrant foul. Tyson Chandler would grab an offensive board or the Suns would stop the bleeding with a well-timed three-pointer.
The Sixers were sleepwalking against one of the NBA’s worst teams and they paid for it, losing by 14 at home to a Suns squad currently on game five of a six-game east coast road swing.
Post-game, three different Sixers were asked if they had overlooked Phoenix.
“They outplayed us tonight, competed harder than we did. Other than the Toronto game, that’s not who we’ve been all season. That’s not our team. We’re all disappointed. That’s not good enough. That’s not our team. That’s not who we’ve been. Can’t give you a reason why. Whether it’s we overlooked them…I don’t know. That was not our team.”
“I think we lost our game from the jump ball. We played hard, and next time we’ll do a better job.”
“Personally, no. I don’t even know what their record is. For me, I was coming in wanting to win and we just didn’t take care of the ball. Defensively we didn’t get enough stops and rebounds.”
1) Out of sorts
The Sixers have only given up 115 or more points four times this season. Twice to Golden State, and the other two times were in the season opener at Washington and the blowout loss in Toronto.
Last night they just did not have it on the defensive end, for whatever reason.
Sequences like this one were particularly aggravating, where Joel Embiid got stuck on the perimeter during a quick Phoenix transition:
Tyler Ulis shoots over Embiid and the Suns get the long rebound. They hold, swing it back to Ulis and brush Redick to get Embiid 1v1 with Devin Booker. Redick goes to double and Booker blows by Embiid for a dunk while the other three Sixers watch.
You saw a lot of that last night, just some lack of urgency and/or confusion on assignments, with guys out of position.
Ben Simmons gets a pass because he was playing while sick, but his defense was sub par last night. It wasn’t a great effort all-around from anybody really.
I thought the Sixers might be a little drained after coming off a good win against a good Detroit team on Saturday night. Is there a “letdown” angle here?
Turns out the Sixers are actually 4-2 on Mondays this season, with wins at Detroit, at Houston, at the Clippers, and vs. Utah. The losses were last week against Cleveland and last night against Phoenix. It did feel like they started slow in that Jazz game after a tough home loss against Golden State two days prior, but the team did rally to put away Utah in the second half. I thought that’s how this game might play out, but it didn’t.
One thing that does stand out, per basketball reference, is that the Sixers do their worst three-point shooting on Mondays. Last night they finished 7-30 for a 23.3% clip. Redick, Dario Saric, and Robert Covington combined to go 5-23 from three-point range and 17-40 overall.
Here’s the day-by-day splits:
You see the three-point numbers there. The Sixers are only shooting 26.3% on Mondays.
The only other statistic that stands out is that 22.8 assist number, which is the lowest on the chart. It just suggests to me that the Sixers aren’t moving as fluidly as they normally do, they’re not spacing the floor and sharing the ball. Maybe there’s something to the sluggish Monday narrative, or maybe it’s just coincidence. Whatever the case, it just feels like something is “off.”
3) Devin Booker
We don’t often use this space to talk about opponents, but holy shit, Devin Booker, take a bow son.
He finished with a season-high 46 points last night on 17-32 shooting.
The clip that’s making the rounds this morning is the 29-footer he hit in the fourth quarter, but I think his most impressive shot was this one, with JJ Redick draped all over him:
Nothing you can do there but laugh out loud and give credit where it’s due.
Booker dropped 32 in the second half alone. That’s the funny thing here; he started out cold and wasn’t even firing on all cylinders.
There are a lot of stats floating around after a performance like that, but I like this one the most:
LeBron James and Devin Booker are the only two players with 10 30+ point games this season.
Booker is 21.
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) December 5, 2017
4) Sauce Castillo
T.J. McConnell’s shoulder injury, combined with Justin Anderson’s shin splints, combined with Markelle Fultz’s scapular muscle imbalance, allowed Nik Stauskas to get some minutes last night.
He looked extremely rusty, as would anyone who’s been sitting on the bench all season long.
He had a rough turnover in the second quarter that lead to a Suns breakout, followed by spin move in the paint where he went down and was called for traveling:
I’m not gonna rip the guy because the situation is what it is. I don’t expect he or Jahlil Okafor to come into these games and contribute anything when they’ve barely gotten any run this season.
That said, if we’re going down the depth chart in these types of games, I really wouldn’t mind seeing Furkan Korkmaz out there. I’ve rambled about bench contribution this season and last night was another example of the issues there, with 14 points contributed by the combination of Stauskas (0), Amir Johnson (0), Bayless (6), and TLC (8). Richaun Holmes didn’t play for whatever reason.