What’s old is new again for the Indiana Pacers, who had absolutely no answer for the 2-3 zone of the Philadelphia 76ers, resulting in an inexcusable collapse late and subsequent loss. The Pacers were outscored 37-15 in the fourth, including being outscored 31-6 in the final 8:16 after Aaron Holiday put the Pacers up 16 at 104-88.
In those final eight minutes, the Pacers shot 1-9 with 5 turnovers, completely stumbling against the zone in terms of movement and shot selection. As if that weren’t bad enough, their own defense went completely off the rails, allowing the Sixers to take the lead on 10-11 shooting. By the time the dust settled, the Sixers turned a 20-point third quarter deficit into a nine-point win. Though the Pacers were in control for a majority of the game, it was never a game they were in complete control of.
Their ability to push the lead was constantly met with a response of some sort by Philadelphia, allowing them to keep the game within reach. Those little stretches, an 8-0 Sixers start, an 11-4 run to close the first half, giving them a 36-35 quarter victory, and a 7-0 run to end the third were just enough and the Pacers just weren’t good enough to keep it from mattering.
The 76ers were also without Joel Embiid. This is worth noting not because Philadelphia had yet to win a game without him in the lineup this year, but because his absence didn’t improve the Pacers all that much as they struggled mightily with Dwight Howard, who had 11 points and 15 rebounds, going to the line 12 times. Myles Turner had about as bad a game as he does when he plays against Embiid, scoring nine on 1-6 shooting before fouling out late.
Philadelphia corralled 14 offensive rebounds, half of those from Howard, leading to 16 extra points. It really put a strain on a Pacers defense that did play well for much of the game, but just struggled to close out possessions and force stops off their mistakes, where the Sixers scored 25.
Despite those little flourishes from the Sixers throughout the game, it was a grand ol’ time for the Pacers for much of the game, with A. Holiday playing his best game of the season, scoring 12 points in the second quarter. Holiday finished with a season high 17, but logged only 17 minutes, shockingly low given how easily he was scoring.
Malcolm Brogdon also had a big game early, unloading for 19 in the first half, then hitting a three early in the third quarter. However, his shot went away from him, finishing 1-6 for three points the rest of the way, including splitting a trip at the free throw line with 15 seconds in the game.
He also had a season low in assists, finishing with just four on a night when the Pacers also tied a season low with 21 assists as a team. The zone not only zapped Indiana’s movement, but took away the chance for easy buckets all together. T.J. McConnell had eight assists, assisting on Indiana’s lone basket in the zone-fueled Sixers comeback.
Domantas Sabonis was also held in check down the stretch, going scoreless in the final 14 minutes of action, last scoring to put the Pacers ahead by the 20-point lead they would end up relinquishing. Sabonis finished with 21 points, but had his worst rebounding game of the year, finishing with eight, pulling in zero in the final 16 minutes of game time.
The Pacers drop their second straight game, finishing January with a middling 7-8 record. The absence of T.J. Warren and Caris LeVert will continue to do a number on Indiana’s margin for error, to where .500 basketball may be what this team is for the time being, but this loss remains a tough one to take on given how the game itself unfolded.
It also is a bad loss if only because of the schedule difficulty the Pacers find themselves in for the next few games, staring 0-1 in a brutal six game stretch that will next host the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies have won six straight games, including all three since Ja Morant’s return.