Another thrilling finale for the Indiana Pacers helped extend their winning streak to three games as they held on in the closing seconds to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers. The Pacers would only trail briefly in the first quarter, falling behind 14-9 before using a 14-0 run to jump ahead for good, but in true Pacers fashion for these games against Eastern Conference Playoff teams, it would take a gutsy performance to keep them there.
The Pacers led by as many as 12, but Philadelphia would bring the game to within a single possession on 12 separate occasions. The composure of the Pacers was on display in response to those pushes, as Indiana would score on their next possession seven times and would be the next team to in all but one instance. That one failure to respond led to a 9-0 Pacers run, taking an 80-71 lead in the third.
The Pacers led 92-89 heading into the final four minutes, a lead they pushed to five on a Trevor Booker put back, eventually pushing it to eight on a Victor Oladipo three pointer.
That three was more than just a cool step back in a clutch moment. It was a breakthrough on an otherwise horrible shooting night from Oladipo. Oladipo shot just 4-21 from the field, finishing with 11 points which was unfortunately amplified due to a fellow poor shooting night from Bojan Bogdanovic, who had just two points on 1-11 shooting.
It’s important to note just how much they struggled shooting the ball because of the role they played in closing out the win. With the Pacers (again) up three after a Joel Embiid dunk with 13.4 seconds remaining, the Pacers inbounded the ball to Oladipo, who in waiting for a foul, instead got whistled for a ticky tack offensive foul with under eight seconds remaining, his second in as many games.
The Sixers got the ball to Embiid who pulled up for a deep three, missing, as Oladipo and Dario Saric tied up for a jump ball. Oladipo controlled the tip towards the baseline, with Bogdanovic knocking the ball off of Ben Simmons out of bounds, giving Indiana the ball with 0.3 seconds remaining, helping seal the win.
The Pacers won tonight despite shooting 40% for the game and 5-24 from three point range. In fact, Oladipo’s three in the fourth was Indiana’s first since the opening quarter. The Pacers hit four of their first five, proceeding to miss 17 consecutive threes before finally seeing one go down.
In that sense, it was a minor miracle that the Pacers managed to win this game, given they were just 1-5 when they shot under 25% from three point range. The Pacers made up for their three point struggles in other areas, forcing Philadelphia into 21 turnovers, leading to a 29-12 advantage in points off turnovers, also outscoring the Sixers 22-7 in fast break points.
The Pacers also had 14 offensive rebounds, leading to as many points, while holding Philly to just seven, topping them 14-8. The rebounding effort was led on the night by Thaddeus Young, who had 10 to go with a 19-point double double. Young had five offensive boards, doing all of his work in the paint on a 7-11 night (while also shooting 5-5 from the free throw line).
The performance of the night came from Myles Turner, who continued his impressive stretch by scoring 25 points and pulling in six rebounds. Turner not shot well, hitting a pair of threes en route to a 9-12 shooting night, but did so going toe-to-toe with Embiid, playing one of his strongest games of the year in terms of playing strong around the basket. Embiid finished with 29 points, but was held to 14 when Turner was in the game.
Embiid’s most dominate stretch came late in the third when Indiana was forced to deal with a scary ankle injury by Domantas Sabonis. Embiid appeared to fall on top of Sabonis’s ankle, forcing Sabonis out of the game, unable to put any weight on the ankle. The early x-rays were negative, leading the team to currently treat it as an ankle sprain.
Meanwhile, Embiid proceeded to score 10 points against Al Jefferson, a matchup that didn’t return dividends for Nate McMillan after some positive play from Jefferson in past spot minutes. Things went a little better when McMillan subbed in Booker as the backup center on a night Booker crashed the glass for six rebounds and five points, including the putback that pushed Indiana up five with under four to go.
Off the bench, Lance Stephenson played well, scoring 11 points, joined by Darren Collison in his third game back with 10. Stephenson was a big boost early in helping push the Pacers up double figures in the first half and Collison was on point late with a pair of back-to-back jumpers that helped push Indiana ahead by seven halfway through the fourth.
Cory Joseph continue to hold down the starting role as Collison works back, being one of just three Pacers to shoot over 50% in the game, scoring 13 on 5-8 shooting, leading the Pacers with five assists. Indiana’s assist numbers fell in the second half, but they were sharp with ball movement early, as six Pacers picked up multiple assists.
The win gives the Pacers their 40th of the season, keeping them locked into 3rd place in the East. It also works to give Indiana a three game lead over the 76ers with a head-to-head tiebreaker, essentially a four game edge, but they are only up two in the loss column.
The Pacers are also now 6-1 against Eastern Conference Playoff teams since the start of February, five of those coming on the road. Indiana wraps up their two game road trip 2-0, winning their fourth consecutive road game overall, moving them to 17-16 on the year. The Pacers tough schedule continues as they will return home to face the only team in the East with a longer winning streak, the Toronto Raptors, winners of nine straight.