Booker Scores 37 as Suns Comeback Falls Just Short vs 76ers

by Cody Cunningham

The Phoenix Suns hit the court for the second and final matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers this season as the two teams tipped off on Wednesday night. 

The Suns found themselves in a hole early on as the 76ers were red-hot from the field during the first half, taking a 72-49 lead into halftime. Despite Devin Booker’s 23 first-half points, the Suns would need a spark in order to battle back into this one

Unfortunately, the third quarter wasn’t looking any better. Midway through the third, the 76ers increased their lead and any chances for the Suns to come back seemed to be slipping away. 

But they weren’t done quite yet.

Elie Okobo and Troy Daniels didn’t play much in the first half, but were inserted into the game and the duo took advantage of the moment. Both guards hit two threes in the final couple of minutes and the Suns had cut the 76ers lead down to 17 entering the fourth. 

The Suns second unit continued to battle into the fourth, slowly chipping away at the deficit. 

With just under five minutes remaining, Josh Jackson banked a layup off the glass to make it a ten-point game. Mikal Bridges showed off his hustle on the very next possession, grabbing an offensive rebound and putting it back up to bring the Suns to within single digits.

The Suns drew up a beautiful play their next time down the court as Jackson dropped off the ball with Booker at the three-point arc, sprinted inside and finished the alley-oop feed from Booker.

The 76ers were only leading by six and the Suns looked to be closing in on an incredible comeback, but Philadelphia wasn’t going to stay cold from the field forever. They went on a seven-to-nothing run and were up by 12 points with just two minutes remaining as once again the game looked just about over.

But once again, the Suns weren’t done.

Booker was fouled shooting a three-pointer and knocked down all three free throws to help bring some momentum back for the Suns. Deandre Ayton and Ben Simmons began trading free throws as the 76ers remained up by 11 with under a minute and a half left in the game.

In desperation mode, Jackson grabbed a defensive board, sprinted the court and launched a three to bring the game back within single digits. However, J.J. Reddick would go to push the lead back to ten.

With one minute to go, Booker stepped up in the clutch as he has done so many times in the past and knocked down a three-pointer. Booker then put in the work on the defensive end, forcing a miss from Joel Embiid.

The Suns quickly ran the court as Jackson found Ayton for the one-handed alley-oop, but the 76ers still led 128-122 with just 37 seconds remaining. The Suns would have to hope for some misses at the free throw line by the 76ers if they planned to bring the game any closer. 

That’s exactly what they got. 

T.J. McConnell made one-of-two at the line and the Suns would be given another opportunity.

With 13 seconds left, Mikal Bridges found Booker who knocked down a three-pointer. Reddick then also went one-of-two and the Suns placed the ball in Booker’s hands yet again.

The 22-year-old launched the ball from about five feet behind the arc, but missed. Fortunately, he chased down his own rebound and put it back in for the easy score. Just like that, the Suns cut a 30-point deficit down to just three with six seconds remaining in the game. 

Okobo quickly fouled Redick on the ensuing inbound pass, but the sharpshooter wasn’t going to miss from the line again as he knocked down both shots and closed out the game with a 132-127 victory for the 76ers.

Booker scored a team-high 37 points, including 15 made free throws while also dishing out eight assists. He has now scored at least 30 points in four straight games against the 76ers, joining Paul Westphal (five straight against Washington) and Charlies Scott (four straight against Philadelphia) as the only players in franchise history to score at least 30 points in four straight games against an opponent.

Ayton notched his rookie-leading 24th double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds on a highly-efficient eight-of-twelve shooting. Ayton has seen what the Suns are capable of and knows it’s just a matter of doing it for 48 minutes.

“I told (Devin Booker) in the game, we gotta stop this,” Ayton said. “We can compete with any team in this league but we just have to stop starting off slow. We can compete. We have the effort, we have the talent, we have everything to compete in this league. Everybody has to be locked in.”

Jackson was an integral part of the Suns' comeback he finished with 16 points, six rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block in 27 minutes of action.

The Suns will return to the practice court for the first time in ten days following a long road trip and tough home stand.

“It’s kind of hard when you’re playing so many games,” Jackson said. “We just came off a long road trip. We’ll be in here tomorrow working on a couple things, so hopefully that will help a lot.”

The Suns will be gearing up for the Los Angeles Clippers who come to town on Friday. Be sure to catch the action on Fox Sports Arizona.