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January 03, 2015

Ten observations from Sixers' 112-96 loss to Suns

Phoenix's 14-32 three-point shooting ensured the Sixers dropped their fourth straight road game

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The Sixers hung tough for three quarters, but they dropped Friday night's game to the Suns at US Airways Center in Phoenix, 112-96. Here are 10 takeaways from the fourth straight loss on the Western Conference portion of the road trip: 

Noel vs. Len

In the middle, there was a matchup between the fifth and sixth overall draft picks of the 2013 NBA Draft. Before Nerlens Noel was a Sixer, he was a Pelican, and before he was a Pelican, he had a chance to be a Sun. Instead, Phoenix decided to select Maryland center Alex Len with their pick. Friday’s game didn’t turn out to have the strongest head-to-head matchup: Len didn’t score and had four turnovers, but he pulled down five boards and blocked six shots. Noel had four points, six rebounds, and two blocks. He struggled catching passes on multiple occasions.

Look out below

 Then again, Len probably won the battle based on this play alone:

Noel's perimeter defense

 There was one excellent moment for Noel that stuck out to me: Caught in a switch against the dynamic Eric Bledsoe, Noel kept his fellow Kentucky Wildcat in front and forced a step-back airball. During the teams’ November matchup, Noel delivered a hard foul to Bledsoe in reaction to Bledsoe claiming the current Kentucky team could beat the Sixers. Noel is very adept at guarding perimeter players after switches.

Suns bench stays hot against Sixers

The November 21 matchup was dominated by the Suns bench, which scored a whopping 68 points. Tonight, the Suns bench was again a huge factor, accounting for 57 of Phoenix’s 112 points. Gerald Green, who is creeping toward “Pat Burrell, Mets” territory against the Sixers, shot 9-15 for 21 points. Keep an eye on that name when free agency rolls around. Green fills a need (shooting) and would seem to be a reasonably gettable target.

Wroten and Sims step up

Tony Wroten and Henry Sims both countered with excellent overall games off the Sixers bench. Sims consistently knocked down his jumper and hustled on the offensive glass, while Wroten was at his whirlwind best. He went for 28 points on an excellent 19 shots. In the most Wroten stat ever, he went 4-9 from behind the arc and the free throw line.  

Philly natives play well

Markieff and Marcus Morris both played strong games, combining for 30 points on 20 shots. The twins, who signed combined $52 million extensions in September, are probably the best players I ever got to play against. The former Prep Charter standouts used to throw down some vicious alley-oops in the Sonny Hill summer league.

Struggling to defend the arc

The Sixers’ 14th-ranked defense simply wasn’t very good tonight, particularly in transition and against dribble penetration from Bledsoe. The Suns shot 14-32 from behind the arc, and many of these looks were of the wide, wide-open variety.

Brown momentarily loses it

There was a funny moment early in the third quarter when Brett Brown was really exasperated with his team. After a shot went off the rim out of bounds, the Sixers (particularly Noel, Carter-Williams, and K.J. McDaniels) were very slow getting back in transition. After Phoenix scored as a result, Brown called a timeout, sat down, and chewed out his team from the bench.

Welcome back, Luc

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute returned to the starting lineup after missing two games with a calf injury. He scored 12 points and played his usual solid defense.

Get well, Harvey

A bit of sad news to pass along: Longtime Sixers statistician Harvey Pollack was injured in a one-car accident Thursday evening. According to a report by Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pollack was in “critical but stable” condition as of midday Friday. The 92-year-old Pollack is a legendary figure in the game, the only individual that has worked in the NBA since the inaugural 1946-47 season. He’s also the guy who scribbled 100 onto this famous piece of paper. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Harvey and his family.