Game Recap | Sixers Fall to Playoff-Focused Pacers

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN – When the going is good for the 76ers offensively, Brett Brown likes to say the team’s system produces a “popcorn”-type of effect in respect to the ball moving, and shots falling.

Sunday, as Brown noted himself following the Sixers’ 107-94 loss to the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the desired, usual “pop” simply wasn’t there.

Shooting just 39.8 percent from the field, while going 14 for 41 on 3-point tries, the Sixers, after a competitive first quarter, were never really able to find a spark Sunday.

Indiana, meanwhile, backed up recent words with action. The Pacers, on the heels of back-to-back losses, said they needed to respond as if their life was on the line. Aiming to solidify a post-season berth, Paul George and Co. did just that.

The four-time All-Star topped all players with 21 points, and generated a game-best plus-23 rating. He supplied eight rebounds and three assists as well.

Myles Turner, Indiana’s second-year big man out of Texas, was arguably an even more impactful force. He finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds to earn his 12th double-double of the campaign.

Jeff Teague, like George an All-Star, chipped in with a smooth 16 points, while veteran Al Jefferson pumped out 14 points and seven boards in just 10 minutes. He nailed 6 of his 9 shots before exiting with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter.

“They show why they’re (tied) for the fifth team in the East, and about to go play in a serious time in the season,” Brown said of the Pacers, which improved to 26-11 at home with Sunday’s victory. “I think defensively they were really good. I feel like that’s where we felt them the most.”

“We did not make many shots,” said Robert Covington, who tallied 15 points, three rebounds, two assists, and two blocked shots. He was 4 for 13 from the floor, and 3 for 9 from behind the 3-point arc.

Two days after setting and matching career-highs in points and rebounds, respectively, Shawn Long was right back at it. The reserve five-man again made the most of minutes resulting from Jahlil Okafor’s absence (right knee soreness), posting 15 points and 10 rebounds. The 10 boards established a new personal-best number for the undrafted rookie from Louisiana-Lafayette, and helped him to his first double-double in 10 NBA appearances.

“It was good that I had a double-double, but at the end of the day, like all the guys in this locker room, we want to win the game, and we didn’t get it,” said the 24-year old Long, who was promoted from the Delaware 87ers earlier this month.

“Individually,” he continued, “I can use this to build for the next game, but as a whole, we need to play better, and I’m sure our coaches will get us ready for the next game. It came down to them making shots, and we weren’t. It’s pretty simple.”

And the territory from which Indiana most notably made shots was the free throw line. In the Pacers’ loss to Denver Friday, they went a meager 8 for 11 from the stripe, compared to the Nuggets converting a staggering 40 of 43 foul shots.

Sunday, the free throw disparity swayed heavily in favor of the hosts. Indiana was 24 of 29 from the line, the Sixers just 10 for 14. If there were one area of the game that reflected the aggressive, purposeful mindset the Pacers brought to the court, this was it.

“You see how different the pace of the game is,” said Covington, when asked about facing an opponent whose playoff fate still remains unsettled, as is currently the case with Indiana. “You’re playing a team that is trying to get in the playoffs, trying to get the best seed possible. They pick it up a notch.”

Richaun Holmes manufactured his third double-double of the season with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Down the stretch of a first quarter that saw the lead change hands seven times, he delivered one of the game’s top highlights, powering his way from the left baseline into the lane for a vicious right-handed dunk.

Moments later, Holmes dialed up a deep ball that flipped the score back in the Sixers’ favor, 18-17. It would be the last time the Sixers were ahead.

Indiana closed the opening period by snapping off 10 straight points, and netted the first basket of the second frame, too. The spurt accounted for the backbone of a 17-6 run that gave the Pacers control for good.

The Sixers forced two ties, at 41-41 and 43-43, in the middle stages of the second quarter, but the Pacers punctuated the half by registering eight of the last 10 points to create a 51-45 margin at the break.

Turnovers were problematic for the Sixers at the outset of the third quarter, and helped Indiana string together another noteworthy burst, this time to the tune of 13 points in a row. The blitz widened the gap to 19, and yielded a deficit the Sixers couldn’t overcome.

With nine points, Dario Saric saw his heady streak of 22 consecutive double-figure scoring games come to an end. Despite going 3 for 15 from the field (1-6 3fg), the Croatian rookie remained a committed rebounder, snagging 10 caroms.

“Just one of those nights,” said Brown, addressing Saric’s offensive output. “You never question his heart or his work ethic or his energy. It was just one of those night.”

While the assessment was about Saric, it easily could have been applied to a summation of the Sixers’ collective efforts. They tried, and they competed. On Sunday, those ingredients alone just weren’t enough.

Sixers Social:
That first-quarter Richaun Holmes slam we were discussing a bit earlier? Required .gif-age. Here’s a look:

Up Next:
The Sixers’ season-long five-game trek, which began last Monday in Orlando, reaches its final destination Tuesday in Brooklyn. Although the Nets are on pace for the poorest winning percentage in the NBA this year, they’ve recently shown signs of turning a positive corner. Sunday, against playoff-bound Atlanta, Brooklyn emerged with a stellar 107-92 victory, on the road no less. The Nets, in their first campaign under former Hawks assistant Kenny Atkinson, have notched three wins in their last four games.

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