Philadelphia 76ers extend upward trend with win over Phoenix Suns

By Gordie Jones, The Sports Xchange

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia 76ers were looking to bounce back Tuesday, a position in which the NBA's worst team often finds itself.

They turned to point guard Ish Smith, who has given them a modicum of respectability in recent weeks.


Smith, acquired in a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans on Dec. 24, scored six of his 20 points in a late-game flurry as the Sixers held off the Phoenix Suns 113-103 in a meeting of two of the NBA's worst teams.

"I was embarrassed the other night against the Celtics," Philadelphia coach Brett Brown, referring to his team's 112-92 loss Sunday. "I thought that that was one of the poorer performances we've had at home. ... We wanted to respond differently, and we did."

Phoenix sliced a 19-point, third-quarter deficit to seven on two occasions late in the game behind guard Archie Goodwin, who poured in 20 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter.


After Goodwin's steal and dunk made it 101-94 with 3:51 left, Philadelphia center Nerlens Noel drilled a jumper. Smith added the next six points in an 8-3 Sixers run, on two layups and two free throws, putting his team ahead 109-97 with 1:11 remaining.

Smith also sank two foul shots with 20.2 seconds left.

"He walked down an NBA game," Brown said. "NBA point guards do that."

It is something Smith has done repeatedly since coming to Philadelphia. While the Sixers own the league's worst record at 7-39, they are 6-9 with him in the lineup. They have also won three of their last five.

Smith said Brown emphasizes the importance of making sound decisions late in the game.

"It's constantly something I'm trying to get better at," Smith said. "I think the great ones do -- the Chris Pauls, the Tony Parkers, the Steph Currys -- and that's the level I want to get at, and be at."

Forward Robert Covington added 19 points and guard Nik Stauskas had 15 for Philadelphia, which is 4-17 at home, also the worst mark in the league.

Noel contributed 14 points, nine rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals.


Center Alex Len had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Suns, the NBA's fourth-worst team (14-32). Phoenix slipped to 4-19 on the road, the league's third-worst mark.

"I thought they were out-hustling us in the beginning of the game," coach Jeff Hornacek said. "It looked like they had more energy than we did. Then you're chasing them the whole time, (and there was) never any real pressure on them."

The Suns, who lost guard Eric Bledsoe for the season to a knee injury sustained Dec. 26 against the Sixers, were also without guard Brandon Knight (abductor strain) for the third consecutive game and forward Jon Leuer (back spasms) for the fourth straight.

Philadelphia center Jahlil Okafor, the team's leading scorer, sat out because of illness, as did guard JaKarr Sampson.

The Sixers built a 35-26 lead early in the second quarter behind Covington, who scored all 11 of his first-half points in the first 13 minutes, including three 3-pointers. Phoenix crept within three later in the period, but Philadelphia scored the half's last six points, five of those by Stauskas, to carry a 54-45 advantage into the break.


Covington was the Sixers' leading scorer in the first two quarters. Len had 12 to top Phoenix.

Covington also dropped in a pair of 3-pointers early in the third quarter, the second of which gave his team a 68-49 cushion with 8:01 left in the period.

NOTES: Sixers G Isaiah Canaan left the game late in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle and did not return. ... 76ers coach Brett Brown said C Jahlil Okafor (illness) will sit out again Wednesday in Detroit. ... Philadelphia G Ish Smith spent the 2013-14 season with the Suns, the only time in his six-year NBA career he has finished a season in the same place he began it. "We loved him when we had him in Phoenix," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said, adding that while Smith didn't play a lot, he often saw action when the team needed a boost. "And all of a sudden everybody seems to run a little bit faster down the court," Hornacek said, "because they know they might get the ball." ... Earlier in the day, the 76ers announced that their new practice facility, based in Camden, N.J., will open later this season. At 125,000 square feet, it will the largest in the league.


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