Preview: 76ers face Suns in clash of the top seeds in the NBA
Very rarely do you get to see the two #1 seeds face off in a game this late into the season. Now with the 76ers claiming the top spot in the East after Friday night’s win over the Clippers (and some timely losses by the Heat and Bucks) tonight’s matchup gets even spicier. Philly closes out their season series with the top-seeded Phoenix Suns tonight on prime-time television.
The Phoenix Suns are 60-14 on the season, the best record in the NBA. Their stellar play has not only clinched them a playoff spot, but guaranteed them home court advantage throughout the entire playoffs. Phoenix has simply been the best team in the league for quite a while, and look to make another run to the NBA finals this post-season.
The 76ers are now 46-27 on the season with nine games remaining. Thanks to some help from the Nets and Grizzlies taking down the Bucks and Heat last night combined with the Sixers going 2-0 in LA, Philly is now the top seed in the East.
The Sixers hold a tiebreaker over the Celtics who jumped up to the second spot, and the Bucks and Heat are now each a half-game back for the top spot. It could not be any tighter in the top four than this, and that only makes tonight’s big-time matchup even more important for the 76ers.
- JaVale McGee (Out)
- Cameron Johnson (Out)
- Frank Kaminsky (Out)
- Dario Saric (Out)
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Sixers Can’t Start Sluggish
The 76ers have had a habit, especially on away games deep into road trips, to start games very slow and allow opponents to get double-digit leads on them. Usually it comes against opponents the team underestimates, but that mentality cannot happen against this Suns team.
A great example of how vital starting the game well is for the 76ers can be seen from the Clippers game on Friday. The Sixers starters came out and quickly jumped to a 16-7 lead mid-way through the opening quarter, a lead they wouldn’t give back the rest of the night.
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Yes, at points the Clippers were able to cut into the lead with their deeper bench versus the inconsistent scoring of the 76ers end of the rotation, but it wasn’t enough. The starters had started the game off hot and created a big enough bubble for the bench guys to play around and not give away the lead.
The Suns are certainly a much bigger beast than the injury-riddled Clippers, but the point still stands. The most important quarters in basketball are the first and final frames, and some of the Sixers best wins on the season come when they dominate them.
Limit Devin Booker
When it comes to the league’s biggest superstars few surpass the talent Devin Booker brings to the court, especially on the offensive side of the ball. D-Book is coming off a 49-point explosion over the Nuggets, where he also grabbed himself ten assists for a double-double.
When Booker is hot, it is very difficult to stop him let alone slow him down. The unfortunate task that the 76ers have to endure tonight in the valley.
Matisse Thybulle will draw the assignment of chasing Booker around the court all night, and while he shouldn’t be able to take him away completely, slowing him down is a must. Booker dropped 35 points on the Sixers in their last meeting which was just enough to give them the five point win in South Philly.
Joel Embiid should be able to limit Deandre Ayton’s impact like he’s done to the best centers in the league, and Chris Paul is still working his way back into form (although his passing will still be unstoppable). If the 76ers want a chance to beat the Suns while they’re still dealing with their fair share of depth issues in the front court, limiting their best scorer is a must.
|Philadelphia 76ers||+3.5 (-105)||+140||O 225.5 (-110)|
|Phoenix Suns||-3.5 (-115)||-165||U 225.5 (-110)|
This is a game I can only assume both teams have been eyeing as the season winds down. A prime-time bout between two contenders in their respective conferences. The Suns have clinched home court for the entire post-season, but also need to get Chris Paul back into form.
I don’t see Phoenix taking it easy, and the 76ers won’t either. I truly could see either team winning this game, but the only thing I know is it’ll be by three or less points.
Mandatory Credit: Chris Szagola.