Sixers Bounce Back with 120-105 Victory over the Suns

The Sixers dominated the Suns in a 120-105 victory Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center, led by 26 points from rookie center Joel Embiid.

Joel Embiid finished with a career-high 26 points in the Sixers 120-105 victory | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Embiid finished with a career-high 26 points in the Sixers 120-105 victory | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

“We know that if we’re going to win it’s not because we’re beating anybody by 20,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown told members of the media after his team held on for a 109-102 victory Wednesday night over a Washington Wizards team that came roaring back in the fourth quarter.

It wans’t quite 20, but will 15 do?

The Sixers were led by dominant performances from Joel Embiid (26 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocked shots in 20 minutes) and Nik Stauskas (21 points on 8-9 shooting in 26 minutes) in route to a dominating 120-105 victory over the Phoenix Suns, who had just played in Indiana the night before.

The Suns looked a lot like the Sixers team that got run out of the building in Minnesota on Thursday, with tired legs and rotations a step (or 3) slow. That’s a common ailment for teams traveling on the second half of back-to-backs, and this time the Sixers were in position to capitalize.

It’s especially common for a Phoenix team that allowed opponents to shoot 37.8 percent from three-point range heading into the game, the second worst three-point defense in the league. Phoenix is a young team that tends to over-help on the perimeter, leaving perimeter shooters wide open. That was certainly the case tonight.

For as great as Embiid looked — and he looked terrific — where the Suns’ tired legs showed up the most was on defense, as the Sixers used exceptional ball movement, along with Phoenix’s step-slow defensive rotations, to get wide-open three after wide-open three. The Sixers connected on 17 of their 35 three-point attempts on the night, which ties the franchise record for most three-point shots made in a game.

“We were moving the ball really well. We were getting great opportunities, guys were being unselfish,” Stauskas said after the game. “The sets we’ve been running really just worked today.”

Stauskas, individually, has been a revalation of late. The third-year guard out of Michigan drove to the hoop, caught alley-oops in transition, and made virtually any perimeter shot he threw up. He finished with 21 points in 26 minutes off the bench, connecting on 8 of his 9 field goal attempts, which included 5-of-6 from three-point range.

21 points were the second-highest total of Stauskas’ career, two shy of the 23 he scored against the Thunder last March. Stauskas has now reached double figures in six consecutive games, averaging 14.5 points over that span while shooting 53.6 percent from three-point range.

“My jump shot felt great, and any time my jump shot feels great my confidence just starts to grow,” Stauskas said. “I felt comfortable out there.”

Stauskas led a Sixers bench that was once again strong, outscoring the Suns reserves 61-46. In addition to Stauskas the Sixers got 14 points from Hollis Thompson (5-9, 3-5 from three) and 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists from Dario Saric.

Still, Joel Embiid once again stole the show, nearly outscoring Phoenix by himself in the first quarter. Embiid dazzled with 17 points, 4 rebounds, and a blocked shot in the frame, draining three out of four three-point shots as the Sixers built a 32-19 first quarter lead.

Embiid finished with 26 points on 9-14 shooting in just 20 minutes of play, setting a new career-high.

After getting embarrassed on national television against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night, this was a win the Sixers needed. It was also one that impressed head coach Brett Brown.

“Any time a group shows that they have the ability to respond, to bounce back, to take stuff at practice and bring it forward, that’s a good sign,” Brown said after the game. “I thought our guys played well.”

For Embiid, the response was a little bit more personal.

“When people think about they Sixers they think about us losing. I wanted to change that (on national tv). I didn’t get to change that, so I was really mad after the game,” Embiid said after the game. “That was probably one of the main reasons why when I came out in the first quarter, I just wanted to dominate.”

After losing their first 5 games at home the Sixers have now won their last 3 at the friendly confines of the Wells Fargo Center, where the Sixers will play 8 of their next 9 games. Hopefully this is something they can build on.

Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.