By Tommy Matthews
The Sixers ended their trip out west last night with a loss to the Phoenix Suns that gave them a 2-1 record on the roadie.
They even got into the top spot by percentage points for a day.
But if the 114-104 defeat to the NBA-best Suns proves anything it is this:
THEY ARE STILL A LONG WAY FROM THE NBA’S MOUNTAINTOP.
Jae Crowder’s wide-open 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter sealed their fate.
But Devin Booker’s 35 points, Chris Paul’s 19 and 14 assists were the foundation in a matchup between two teams with an eye on the Finals.
The Suns have wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and best record in the league, while the 76ers are fighting Milwaukee, Boston and Miami for the top spot in the East.
The loss left the 76ers tied with the Bucks, a half-game behind the Celtics and Heat.
Phoenix is 61-14, a victory shy of trying the franchise season victory record. The 76ers had their three-game winning streak snapped despite another big game from Joel Embiid, who had 37 points and 15 rebounds.
“That is the best team in the league for a reason,” Embiid said. “They’ve got a bunch of great players who play well together. They are connected offensively and defensively, they don’t get rattled.”
The Sixers’ James Harden had a tough game, shooting 2 of 11 from the field. He had 14 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
The Suns took a 91-86 lead into the final quarter. They pushed that advantage to 101-90 by midway through the quarter, but the 76ers scored 10 straight points — highlighted by two 3-pointers from Tyrese Maxey — to get back it it.
But Booker responded by making another tough jumper while getting fouled by Danny Green and the Suns pulled away for the victory. Booker shot 13 of 22 from the field, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range, in one of his more efficient games this season.
He said playing against another team with Finals aspirations helps with motivation.
“That’s a talented team that we could possibly see at the end,” Booker said. “We just want to make statements. Play the right brand of basketball and wear teams down.”
The 76ers took a 39-37 lead into the second quarter despite Booker’s 22 points in the first on 8-of-11 shooting. When Booker went to the bench to start the second quarter, the 76ers responded with a 12-0 run.
Philadelphia led the entire second quarter and took a 64-60 lead into the break. Embiid had 19 points and eight rebounds before the break while Tobias Harrisadded 15 points. Harris finished with 17.