By Connor Thomas
Last night, the Sixers got a much needed blowout win at home against the Indiana Pacers. Following a rough weekend that saw the team fall to a bad Cleveland Cavaliers team in overtime, Doc Rivers’ postgame comments about effort clearly did their part in inspiring his men against Indiana. The Sixers looked good in the 1st quarter on the offensive end of the floor, putting up 33 points thanks in large part to an 8 spot from an aggressive Ben Simmons, but the defense did not match the offensive output. Former Creighton standout and 8.6 PPG career averaging Doug “McBuckets” McDermott was cooking for the Pacers, putting up 9 points in the quarter to lead all scorers. McDermott is not exactly the hardest cover in the NBA, so naturally there seemed to be some frustration for the Sixers on the inability to contain him during Indiana’s 32 point 1st. The difference between last night and Saturday’s loss to the Cavs, however, was that the team actually reacted to the slow start.
McDermott was held scoreless for the remainder of the game, partially because of the Sixers defense, partially because of a Simmons elbow that knocked out one of his teeth, and the next two quarters saw absolutely shut down defense from the Sixers. Joel Embiid warmed up to his usual self in the 2nd, contributing 9 of his 24 points in the frame, but Furkan Korkmaz jumped warm and went straight to scalding hot. Korkmaz knocked down 4 of 7 from deep in the 2nd, pouring in 13 of Philly’s 39 points, and his bench mate Shake Milton followed suit to a lesser extent, contributing 9. All of this led to a 17 point half time lead for the Sixers, and the set up for an early curtain for the starters. In order to get to that early rest, the 3rd quarter needed to mirror the 2nd, and Simmons, Embiid and company had no trouble replicating that feat. Mike Scott joined the party with a pair of 3 pointers and Embiid and Simmons contributed a combined 17 points as the Sixers extended their lead to a gaudy 28 heading into the 4th. The final quarter saw none of the Sixers starters, as Doc Rivers emptied the bench to kill off the remaining 12 minutes.
When the dust settled, Philadelphia ended up closing out a little slowly, but with plenty of breathing room, securing a 16 point win. The Pacers did have 6 players score in double figures, which doesn’t indicate the best defensive game for the Sixers, but when you knock down 15 3 pointers and shoot 56.8% from the floor over the course of a game, you can usually get away with some softer d. At the end of the day, the 1 seed in the Eastern Conference took a lesser team and ran them out of the gym. The Sixers improved to 23-12 on the year, while the Pacers fell to 15-18. The Sixers will round out their first half schedule at home against the Utah Jazz, who hold the NBA’s best record. It will be an interesting measuring stick of where Philly truly stands heading into the All-Star break.