76ers, Pacers meet battling for position in East
The Philadelphia 76ers will look for their third consecutive win when they travel to face the Indiana Pacers on Thursday.
The Sixers, who sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference just one game behind the Pacers, scored a season-high 149 points in a 42-point blowout victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday.
Philadelphia will be aiming for consecutive wins at Indiana for the first time since it won three straight from Dec. 22, 2004, to Nov. 5, 2005.
"I think that we came out with energy," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said after the Sixers dismantled the Timberwolves.
"I thought we had a tremendous spirit. I thought we played defense. We used that base to run ... but in a half-court spread, we shared the ball. We really used our defense as a launching pad and did some good things there, but we really shared the ball."
The Sixers received contributions across the board with Joel Embiid leading the way, scoring 31 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Ben Simmons had 20 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists while sitting out most of the fourth quarter.
Even deep reserve Jonah Bolden scored a career-high 14 points.
"That's how we look when we guard," said Sixers guard Jimmy Butler, who scored 19 points against his former team. "I think we do a great job of scoring points, but whenever we guard, we're a really tough team. So let's learn from this and we got a stretch ahead of us now."
The Sixers (29-16) and Pacers (29-14) split their first two matchups this season.
On Tuesday, the Pacers also crushed their opponent in a 131-97 win over the visiting Phoenix Suns. The Pacers led 38-19 after the first quarter and sprinted to the relatively easy victory.
Bojan Bogdanovic led the way with 20 points while Myles Turner scored 18 points after missing the previous four games with a sore right shoulder. Victor Oladipo had eight points, six rebounds and five assists while being able to rest for much of the second half.
"They don't need me to score right now," Oladipo told reporters. "I don't need to score. I had four shots in the first half and we're up 11. That's the beauty of our team. We play well together."
The Pacers won their third game by 30 or more points this season and captured their second in a row overall. They were able to post the win largely because of their work on the defensive end.
"We established ourselves right from the start defensively," Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said. "We forced 10 turnovers in the first quarter. We had eight or nine deflections, so we were really active."
Like the Sixers, the Pacers also have a difficult schedule looming. This battle is just the beginning.
"At the end of the day, it's over," Oladipo told reporters. "This game is completely over. We have a big game on Thursday against a team who's really close to us in the standings and the top of the East. We need to take care of business then. That's what it's all about."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 17, 2019