Missing three key starters in Ben Simmons (illness), Tobias Harris (knee), and Seth Curry (hip), the Philadelphia 76ers nearly pulled off a miracle against the Phoenix Suns, going down 116-113 at Wells Fargo Center.
With just 0.8 on the clock, Joel Embiid almost tied it up and sent the game to overtime with this full-length heave, which came oh so close to going down.
😱 @JoelEmbiid ALMOST forced OT from the other end! #PhantomCam pic.twitter.com/rMtN5nXSVA- NBA (@NBA) April 22, 2021
With the win, the Suns improve to 2-0 on this road trip, with a nail-biting overtime win over the Milwaukee Bucks and now, they hand the 76ers just their seventh home loss of the season.
Booker vs. Thybulle
An elite offensive player up against a lockdown defender. This game of cat-and-mouse between Devin Booker and Matisse Thybulle was something else.
Booker has been a thorn in the 76ers' side in recent years, scoring 30+ points in each of his last seven games against the 76ers, the longest streak by a Suns player against a single opponent. But he had his hands full with the 76ers wing who hounded him on the perimeter, cut off driving lanes and denied him the ball with relentless energy.
The Suns guard finished with 19 points, seven assists and three rebounds on shooting 6-of-14 from the field and 0-of-3 from the 3-point line, but with Thybulle as his primary defender he managed just 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting and 0-of-3 from deep. Thybulle also picked up a pair of blocks and steals.
The best of the bunch, his recovery to send this 3-point attempts into the stands.
Had to get the wide version of this. https://t.co/wM8v0WiL4T pic.twitter.com/NAjzBkIIdy- Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) April 22, 2021
"All-Defense, for sure in my opinion," 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said post-game of Thybulle's defensive credentials.
"There's not ten better defenders in the league, I can tell you that. There may not be five."
He finished with zero points, playing a team-high 36 minutes, but his impact was felt well beyond the box score.
While Booker was made to work for every bucket, he had the last laugh, draining this clutch fadeaway to put the Suns in front by six with just 13.7 remaining in the fourth quarter.
HIT 'EM WITH THE DOUBLE FINGER WAG @DevinBook! pic.twitter.com/bweBS4Q0cY- Phoenix Suns (@Suns) April 22, 2021
Chris Paul looks like an MVP
The 36-year-old is an unlikely choice for the MVP award, but the way he's orchestrating this Suns team, especially against the league's best teams, is a timely reminder just how good the veteran point guard is.
Just this week he passed Magic Johnson for fifth all-time in assists and after a 22-point, 13-assist, seven-rebound performance against the Bucks, he followed that up with another prolific outing against the 76ers.
Paul led the Suns with 28 points and eight assists, bringing up an absurd assist-to-turnover ratio over his past seven games with 67 assists and just three turnovers. Point God.
Chris Paul last 7 games:- StatMuse (@statmuse) April 22, 2021
He has 67 assists and 3 turnovers in that span. pic.twitter.com/N4nWX7hvgj
"There's nothing like having a floor general, a leader that can help his teammates but also his teammates need," Suns general manager James Jones recently told Bleacher Report.
"They all know they need him to survive; they need him to thrive. That's what's so unique about him. That's what Chris enjoys. He enjoys seeing those guys thrive."
Embiid fights through the pain
Speaking of MVP candidates, for the second-straight game without his main co-stars, Joel Embiid delivered another standout performance with 38 points, 17 rebounds (8 offensive) and four assists.
He scored nine of the team's first 15 points and crashed the glass with sheer force, creating a ton of extra opportunities for his teammates.
76ers fans held their breath in the third quarter when the big man went to the bench clutching his knee after he appeared to slam it on the court. He re-entered the game with just over six minutes remaining in the game with the 76ers down seven.
The 27-year-old said he's "not in the best physical shape at this point," but felt obliged to play given the team's string of injuries and is expecting to suit up for Thursday's contest against the Milwaukee Bucks on the second night of a back-to-back.
"I can't rest. Even if I'm hurt, I've just got to keep pushing," he said post-game.
Embiid has missed 18 games already this season, including a bone bruise on his right knee which saw him miss 11 games after the All-Star break, back tightness and right knee pain.
The Suns continue their four-game road trip tomorrow in Boston against the Celtics, before a marquee matchup against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday (ET).
Meanwhile, the 76ers will travel to Milwaukee to face the Bucks for two games on back-to-back nights.
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