Exceptionally poor offense plagued the Indiana Pacers through two and a half quarters against the Philadelphia 76ers, allowing the Sixers to inch towards a 63-52 lead that felt twice that. The Pacers, plagued by all-around rust from the returns of Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis, paired with shocking misses around the rim and a steady streak of missed jumpers kept Indiana below 40% the entire night.
The one bright spot through their struggles offensively was that Philadelphia was in the same boat themselves. Halfway through the second quarter, both teams labored to 31 points, but it was Philly that landed the first real punch, getting a late-half boost from Ben Simmons to push the 76ers ahead 49-40 at the break.
In the first half, Simmons was the only Sixer to shoot over 50%, scoring 20 first half points. For the Pacers, that player was T.J. Warren. He had just eight points in the first half, but gave Indiana’s offense just enough boost that he was able to carry the languished Pacers to their first eight of the second half, bringing them to within five.
Philly quickly doubled that advantage, eventually adding an extra point to the scoreboard to put them ahead by 11 with 5:04 remaining in the third. In desperate need of a spark, Myles Turner stepped up, scoring seven points on a 9-0 run that was capped by a three at the top of the arc.
Brogdon and Aaron Holiday followed suit, hitting threes of their own to wind down the quarter. A pair of Brogdon free throws tied the game 69-69, putting the Pacers in nice position heading into the fourth. The Sudden Appearance of Raul Neto appeared to shock everyone early in the final period, however, as the Brazilian point guard scored seven quick points out of nowhere to put Philly on top 80-79 three minutes in.
T.J. McConnell would put an end to The Neto Experience within the next 30 seconds, racing to the basket for a fading floater to put Indiana in the lead. McConnell then stole the ball from Neto, getting knocked to the floor while finding Justin Holiday for the emphatic jam.
That would be the last field goal for the Pacers for four and a half minutes, yet they were still able to nurse that three point lead for as long as possible, getting four points from the line before finally getting bowled over by Josh Richardson, who poured in buckets heading into Winning Time.
Even after losing the lead, the Pacers managed to keep it a one possession game, taking the lead on back-to-back buckets from Brogdon.
Richardson capped off 11 straight Sixers points with a three of his own to put them on top 95-94, a lead that would be short-lived after Turner got to the line on a sharp inbounds play, flipping the score. A pair of crucial stops allowed them to nurse the lead, capitalizing on their own second chance opportunities with Brogdon splitting a trip at the line.
Up two with 30 seconds left, the 76ers found Tobias Harris, who was blocked at the three point line by Warren, giving the ball back to Indiana and sending Brogdon back to the line after a poor awareness foul by Matisse Thybulle, icing the game.
The Pacers completed the 101-95 comeback win by outscoring the Sixers 7-0 in the final two minutes. All in all, they had a stellar performance across the final 19 minutes of action, scoring 49 of their 61 second half points, while holding Philadelphia to just 46 in the entire second half.
Timely three point shooting really helped Indiana back in the game. Their three straight makes put them in the lead for the first time in the second half, finishing with 10 for the game. J. Holiday led the way with four makes, including a big time corner make, assisted by Aaron Holiday.
The Pacers were also aided by a 25-15 free throw advantage. Not surprisingly, the leader among the starters in both three pointers made and free throws made came from Brogdon, who finished with 21 points in his return. He also had nine assists and seven rebounds, finding a rhythm late after some clear rust early and often.
While Brogdon fell short of a double double, Turner did get there, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Not only did Turner score seven of the nine points in Indiana’s third quarter comeback, but he also assisted on the other basket, giving him a hand in all nine points in the run. His three blocks all came in the first half, key in helping Indiana weather their poor shooting.
The one Pacer who didn’t suffer from poor shooting was Warren. Warren also scored 21 points and had a pair of blocks himself (the first coming in the opening minutes as Indiana started the game 1-9 shooting). He finished the game 8-13 from the floor, allowing them a counterbalance from Simmons, who had just four points in the second half.
Off the bench, the Pacers got a scoring touch from all five bench players. Nearly half of Indiana’s 31 bench points came from J. Holiday, however, who had 14 on 4-6 shooting from three point range. Holiday’s shooting was helped along by a three each from A. Holiday and Doug McDermott.
McConnell finished with the loudest four points and three assists possible and not only because he was mic’d up. McConnell’s fourth quarter score and steal was emblematic of just what he can bring to a game in terms of spark. The final numbers (on 2-5 shooting) aren’t eyepopping, but his ability to play strong in the fourth allowed Nate McMillan to run him deep into the quarter, saving Brogdon for the home stretch.
Elsewhere, Sabonis also had a double double of 10 points and 16 rebounds, but similar to the team as a whole, struggled getting to double figures, shooting just 3-12. Jeremy Lamb on the other hand finished with just four points, struggling on both ends of the court.
As a team, the Pacers shot just 38.4%. It was Indiana’s first win since 2017 doing so, snapping a 20-game losing streak. Their ability to hit more threes and get to the line helped buoy them against a 50-32 deficit in points in the paint, outscoring Philadelphia 18-10 in points off turnovers.
With the win, the Pacers move up to the 5th seed, putting them just a half game behind Toronto. Beating the 76ers not only jumps Indiana ahead in the standings in the short term, but guarantees them no worse than a split in the season series after the teams play for a fourth time on March 14.
In the meantime, the Pacers will see the Minnesota Timberwolves for the first, and last time over the coming days, facing them in a home-and-home series on Wednesday and Friday. They’ll travel north to face the Wolves on Wednesday, the first of seven straight games against Western Conference opponents, six of them on the road.