After dropping their last two games on the road, the Indiana Pacers put themselves in a very difficult position returning home to face the Philadelphia 76ers. Though not a must-win, a loss today would have put them two games behind the fifth seeded Sixers while giving Philly a commanding 2-0 lead in the season series.
Fortunately, that wasn’t a scenario the Pacers entertained on New Year’s Eve, reversing fortunes from their outing in New Orleans by dominating in the second and third quarters and cruising to a comfortable win to close out the calendar year. The Pacers were on the positive side of injury news heading into the game, getting Malcolm Brogdon back while Philly would be without Joel Embiid.
Brogdon’s time on the floor didn’t last long though, as the point guard left the game for good eight minutes in after suffering back spasms. When Brogdon went out, the Pacers trailed 21-19, but the game continued to swing back and forth for the rest of the quarter, the Pacers jumping ahead on a T.J. Warren layup, holding a 29-27 advantage after the first.
In the second quarter, T.J. McConnell brought a different level of energy to the game, scoring or assisting on 13 straight points, including the highlight of the night, a Domantas Sabonis poster over Norvelle Pelle.
With the run, the Pacers’ lead jumped up to 15 as the 76ers fell completely into a hole offensively. The combination of McConnell and Warren pushed the lead to 21 minutes later, an avalanche of energy and shotmaking pushing the Pacers into a comfortable lead.
By the time the half ended, the Pacers had outscored Philadelphia 38-16 in the quarter, taking a commanding 67-43 lead. Not only was McConnell an energy boost, but the production of Warren proved as good as possible, as he scored all 21 of his points in the first half, going 9-9 from the floor.
The Pacers didn’t let up in the third quarter, using an 14-2 run to push their lead to 36 with 6:29 on the clock. Sabonis had the most to say in that quarter, scoring 11 of his game high 23 in the third, even hitting a straight away three. Once in the fourth, the Pacers kept the 76ers from climbing back in the game, helped along by six early points from Doug McDermott, guiding them to the 115-97 win.
Even though the game was a lopsided affair, the Pacers still struggled mightily on the glass. They allowed 14 offensive rebounds to just five themselves, making up the entirety of Indiana’s nine rebound deficit in the game. The Pacers had to go big elsewhere in the game to make up for it, partially coming from three point shooting, but mostly from their ability to score off of turnovers. The Pacers won the turnover battle 15-6, giving them a 25-7 win in points off turnovers.
The three point shooting was much improved as well as the Pacers shot 11-25 from deep, versus just 6-29 for the Sixers. While Sabonis, Warren, and McConnell made up a bulk of the highlights, the shooting from Myles Turner, Jeremy Lamb, and Justin Holiday provided a steady boost from beyond the arc, combining for seven makes.
Turner finished with 14 points, going 3-5 from deep, one from extra deep, and even a nifty three off of a screen early in the game.
Lamb was just 3-8 shooting, the lone starter (sans Brogdon) to shoot under 50% for the game. He did hit two from deep, leading the way with six free throw attempts, making five. McConnell also had six attempts, helping Indiana to a 20-17 win at the line. Justin Holiday went 4-4 himself, totaling 10 points with a pair of threes.
The Pacers jump up to 5th with the win, edging Philadelphia on percentage points while improving to 15-3 at home. The home stand concludes on Thursday when the Pacers host the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets have been on a tear of late, jumping up to the two seed in the West after winning nine of 10. They’ve averaged 115 points per game in those wins, something close to what Indiana had allowed in their four games prior to today, a real contributing factor in why they were just 1-3 in those games.
From Indy Cornrows, have a safe and Happy New Year’s!