After wrapping up their final scrimmage against the Dallas Mavericks earlier this week, the Philadelphia 76ers could not stave off a 53-point onslaught from Indiana Pacers forward T.J. Warren, losing 127-121 on Saturday night.
In their previous three meetings this season, Warren averaged 23.7 points per game. This game was pivotal for Philadelphia in terms of the Eastern Conference playoff standings.
If the Sixers won, they would’ve been tied for the fifth spot in the playoffs and hold the tiebreaker over the Pacers via conference-record.
But was not the case as they lost a winnable contest, which dropped them a game behind the Pacers and into the sixth seed. Nevertheless, the game started off well for Philadelphia as they made a concerted effort to attack the paint with no Domantas Sabonis for the Pacers.
All-Star center Joel Embiid had six of the Sixers’ 14 first-quarter points within the first four minutes. However, the Pacers took off, going on a 17-0 run, thanks to Warren.
Warren had 19 points in the opening frame, shooting 8-of-11 from the field and 2-of-3 from three-point range. Then to make matters worse, second-year point guard Shake Milton struggled, turning the ball over twice later in the first quarter.
Milton and Embiid had some words for each other at the end of the opening frame, which was a microcosm of the team’s first seeding game.
Despite Warren’s insane performance, the Sixers received a tremendous performance from Embiid, who had 41 points on 15-of-23 from the field and 21 rebounds.
Along with Embiid, forward Tobias Harris scored 30 points, while All-star point guard Ben Simmons added 19 points and 13 rebounds. The Sixers will need to get over this loss quickly as they have to play the San Antonio Spurs on Monday.
However, before we can turn the page, here are three quick takeaways from Saturday night’s game:
1. Richardson and Milton get outplayed by Pacers’ backcourt
As previously mentioned, Milton did not have a good game as the team’s starting point guard. He was in foul trouble and couldn’t get into a rhythm offensively (zero points in 19 minutes).
With Milton struggling, Sixers head coach Brett Brown turned to Raul Neto and Alec Burks for some offense and stability. Neto only scored two points in 21 minutes but was a +14 and did not have a single turnover.
Burks had 12 points off the bench, shooting a perfect 3-for-3 from three-point range. However, he only played 12 minutes, which is shocking due to the play of Josh Richardson.
In 30 minutes of game action, Richardson only registered four points, three turnovers, two steals, and an assist. He was also a -9, while Milton was a -3.
That being said, when you compare Milton and Richardson’s performances to that of Aaron Holiday and Victor Oladipo, it’s night and day.
Holiday produced a double consisting of 15 points and 10 assists with +17 (third-highest on the Pacers). Oladipo had 15 points as well, to go along with seven rebounds and a +9.
2. Sixers dominate the boards, but not the turnover battle
On Saturday night, the Sixers took advantage of the Pacers’ weakened frontcourt with no Sabonis and center Myles Turner getting into foul trouble.
Philadelphia outrebounded Indiana, 55-34, and had the game’s top-two leading rebounders (Embiid – 21, Simmons – 13). However, that did not help the Sixers win as they had an embarrassing 21 turnovers.
It’s pretty hard to win a basketball game when you are turning the ball over at that rate. The Pacers, on the other hand, only had 10 turnovers.
Before the NBA suspended its season, Indiana forced their opponents into 14.4 turnovers per game. The Pacers had 26 points off of turnovers, while the Sixers had 17.
3. More minutes for Matisse
Heading into Saturday night’s game, the Sixers were without forwards Mike Scott and Glenn Robinson III. Both players can shoot the three, while Robinson III can defend multiple positions on the floor.
With that being known, it seemed as if Matisse Thybulle would be in line for more playing time against the Pacers. But that wasn’t the case as he only played 12 minutes off the bench.
In a game where the team was struggling defensively, Thybulle should have been used more often. And at the same time, the Sixers’ defensive rotations could have been better.
For a team that prides themselves on their perimeter defense, the Sixers allowed Indiana to shoot 50 percent from the field and 41.2-percent from three-point range.