This was a big game for two up and coming teams trying to stake out territory among the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately the game didn't come close to living up to its billing as the play was sloppy on both sides and in the end, the Sixers simply made more shots. In fact, Philly shot 50% from the floor while the Pacers let too many good scoring opportunities slip away while making only 37& of their shots.
The Pacers had to make due without leading scorer Danny Granger who was not with the team after suffering a bout of food poisoning. Also, the second unit missed a key contributor with George Hill sitting out the game due to the back injury courtesy of Gerald Henderson in Saturday's game. Then in the second half Tyler Hansbrough was knocked in the eye suffering a bad scratch on the eye that prevented his return.
That put Dahntay Jones into the starting lineup with Lance Stephenson and A.J. Price handling backup backcourt duties off the bench. There simply weren't enough options to combat the Sixers' attack with a bench that delivered three players in double figures to outscore the Pacers bench 41-19.
But the Pacers were just a little off all night and at times it seemed like they should be down 20 points, but they continued to grind and had a late chance to make things interesting when they cut the lead to six points twice with less than three minutes to play, but Philly answered both times with buckets and a 6-0 run to put the game away.
More thoughts and observations after the jump.
- The Pacers had an advantage with Roy Hibbert in the post but struggled at times to find the big fella. When they did he made his fair share of plays connecting on 7 of 12 shots to finish with 19 points and 8 rebounds. But Hibbert also missed four valuable free throws.
- The Sixers seized control of the game in the third quarter. One particularly poor stretch by the Pacers saw them turn the ball over on four straight possessions which fueled a 10-0 run by Philly to give them a 66-52 lead. The Pacers were playing uphill the rest of the game.
- Paul George did an admirable job of filling in for Danny Granger. Unfortunately, with the way Granger's season has gone that isn't exactly a compliment. George only made 4 of 16 shots and just 3 of 8 from behind the arc. While he finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, George also had 5 turnovers.
- George also had one of the signature plays of the game which revealed that it just wasn't the Pacers night. With 0.3 seconds left in the third quarter, down nine points, the Pacers had the ball for a side out of bounds play on the right side. They ran a perfect play that slipped George through traffic to the back of a rim for an alley oop pass from Dahntay Jones. The pass hit PG in the hands but he got caught between throwing it down and trying to quickly get it off his hands and instead muffed the shot for nothing.
- A.J. Price had a rough night off the bench, although still seems a much steadier presence on the floor than Lance Stephenson. Regardless, Price had the other tell-tale play midway through the fourth quarter when the Pacers were again trying to cut into a nine point lead. Price stole the ball in the backcourt from Evan Turner. The Pacers quickly had a 1-on-4 break, but Price was late with a bounce pass to Darren Collison allowing Turner to break up the play and take it the other way.
- Backcourt buckets were hard to come by as well, with the trio of Collison (2-10), Price (1-7) and Stephenson (1-5) combining to make just four of 22 shots.
- Philly didn't play their best game, turning the ball over 18 times and missing some key free throws as well, but they showed the problems they will pose going forward. It was actually better when their starters were on the floor because Louis Williams can knock down shots and Thaddeus Young made a big impact with his length and ability to score in a variety of ways. They even squeezed out 11 points and 8 rebounds from rookie big man Nikola Vucevic.
- Andre Iguodala seemed to always come up with a shot when the Pacers were trying to mount a rally. The star forward finished with 20 points and 9 rebounds.
- David West put up a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds as he has become almost automatic when left open for the 15-17 footer. Unfortunately he continues to struggle around the rim, unable to draw fouls nor finish around the rim. He seemed to have a couple of point blank tips tonight that just bounced out. Frustrating night for sure.
- Hopefully George Hill and Danny Granger will be back and ready to go against Atlanta on Wednesday. The Pacers will need all of their options available which may continue to be a problem with the crazy schedule.