A late game push by the Indiana Pacers bench fell short, wrapping up an 0-3 preseason in a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Pacers’ starters, particularly that of Domantas Sabonis, Victor Oladipo, and Malcolm Brogdon, carried the scoring load for a Pacers team that struggled at times to get buckets, scoring 67 of Indiana’s 107 points.
The Pacers and Sixers went back and forth all night, a pair of lengthy Indiana runs giving them as much as a 17-point advantage in the third. Struggles to carry over the offensive success to the second unit allowed Philadelphia to turn the game back in their favor quite effortlessly, given overall struggles on the defensive end.
Short Myles Turner for a second straight game due to concussion protocol, Dwight Howard was able to feast inside early and often, going back and forth with Sabonis all night. While Sabonis got the statistical edge with 26 points and 11 rebounds to Howard’s 14 & 4, Howard still finished 7-7, three of those rebounds coming on the offensive end.
That same defensive struggle didn’t really carry over to Philadelphia’s end, especially in the matchup between Brogdon and Ben Simmons. Simmons frustrated Brogdon offensively, holding him to 7-22 shooting. Simmons again didn’t bowl over the matchup statistically, but that impact was felt when Brogdon was looking to make things happen in isolation against Simmons.
On the bright side, Oladipo did have his best showing of the preseason, finally finding some success when attacking the rim, also hitting 4-9 from three point range to help Indiana’s otherwise lackluster three point percentage. The Holiday Bros. were less effective tonight offensive, all seven of their points coming from Aaron Holiday, but they did bring their best play on the defensive end, with Justin Holiday picking up a pair of steals.
The bench, however, allowed Indiana leads to slip away twice, showcasing a real inability to score points. Cassius Stanley led the way with 12 points, doing a bulk of his damage in the fourth quarter, but he was also the bench leader in scoring for much the game when he had four points for much of the game.
Stanley did have a solid outing, especially late as Indiana looked to stage a comeback against Philly’s bench, going up for a nice alley-oop courtesy of Naz Mitrou-Long.
Naz Mitrou-Long lob to Cassius Stanley.. from the logo! pic.twitter.com/t8fZO3etyz— NBA (@NBA) December 19, 2020
Philadelphia’s bench had four double figure scorers, including 10 of their 11 threes from three players. Both teams finished with 11 made threes, the Pacers getting there on 42 attempts (starting 2-15), but the 76ers were better at hitting those timely triples to keep them in the game and push them ahead.
Goga Bitadze made his preseason debut, scoring five points with five rebounds and four assists, but was just 1-6 from the field, his only made basket coming from three. Bitadze was up and down throughout the game, continuing to show some nice flashes paired with him still working to catch up to the NBA game.
One thing he didn’t have was a block, which is something the Pacers again failed to even register without Turner in the lineup. For the second straight game, Jalen Lecque, a 6’4” guard, had the lone block of the night for Indiana, totaling two of their three in the last two games.
Indiana’s defense wasn’t great at preventing baskets, but it did find considerable success at creating turnovers. The Pacers forced 27 Philly turnovers, outscoring the 76ers 35-14 in points off turnovers. Ten of those turnovers were off of steals and the Pacers did rebound well on the offensive glass at times, pulling in 20, but the points weren’t there in either case to help them gain a significant advantage.
In transition, the Pacers were outscored 14-8, and in second chance points off of rebounds, they topped Philadelphia by a single point, 16-15. With Philly shooting 53% for the game and Indiana slumping to just 37%, those rebounding and fast break advantages weren’t enough to help them come away with an exhibition W.
As nice as a win would’ve been in one of these three games, it’s been wiped clean in preparation for the start of the regular season on Wednesday, December 23rd. The Pacers will remain at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, ready to host the New York Knicks for the regular season opener. Potentially positive news for both Turner and T.J. Warren may help Indiana’s lineup get a little more balanced heading into the game.