GAME RECAP: Pacers 115, 76ers 97

Pacers get a comfortable win at home verses the 76ers to finish 2019. Final: 115-97

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GAME RECAP: Pacers 115, 76ers 97

Pacers get a comfortable win at home verses the 76ers to finish 2019. Final: 115-97
Dec 31, 2019  |  00:01

Postgame: Pacers Locker Room - Dec. 31, 2019

December 31, 2019 - Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, and Doug McDermott respond to the 115-97 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers Tuesday afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Dec 31, 2019  |  01:13

Postgame: McMillan Press Conference - Dec. 31, 2019

December 31, 2019 - Coach Nate McMillan responds to the 115-97 victory against the Philadelphia 76ers Tuesday afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Dec 31, 2019  |  05:51

Sabonis' Thunderous Slam

Sabonis' Thunderous Slam
Dec 31, 2019  |  00:08

Goga Shoots and Scores

Goga Shoots and Scores
Dec 31, 2019  |  00:05

Goga Gets the Block

Goga Gets the Block
Dec 31, 2019  |  00:06

McDermott with the Tough Take

McDermott with the Tough Take
Dec 31, 2019  |  00:07

Not In Sabonis' House

Not In Sabonis' House
Dec 31, 2019  |  00:06

Holiday Lets It Fly

Holiday Lets It Fly
Dec 31, 2019  |  00:10

Warren Pounds It Down

Warren Pounds It Down
Dec 31, 2019  |  00:13

Aaron Holiday Dishes to a Cutting McConnell

Aaron Holiday Dishes to a Cutting McConnell
Dec 31, 2019  |  00:09

Warren Follows the Ball

Warren Follows the Ball
Dec 31, 2019  |  00:10

Turner Catch and Shoot Three

Turner Catch and Shoot Three
Dec 31, 2019  |  00:04

Warren Hits Three

Warren Hits Three
Dec 31, 2019  |  00:08

Pacers Know What to Do Without Vic

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

He had missed three consecutive mid-range jump shots when a whistle blew a timeout late in the game, so T.J. McConnell took advantage of the opportunity to put up a 15-footer for practice as the players headed toward the benches. It went in, of course. And he reacted as if to say, "Sure you hit one now, why don't you do it when it counts?!"

"That's usually how it goes," he said later in the locker room. "On those nights when I'm not making my pull-up, someone calls a timeout and then I'll make one. But if I'm not hitting my pull-up or making wide open threes, I'm just trying to get people the ball and get stops on defense."

And there you have the reason the Pacers' second unit blew open the game in the Pacers' 115-97 victory over Philadelphia on Tuesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Also, the reason McConnell is in the NBA in the first place. And, also, why it's such a mystery the 76ers let him get away in free agency last summer.

One of these teams was destined to end 2019 with a three-game losing streak, and it turned out not to be the Pacers because of the way they moved the ball. That's been the key to their success all season, the basic reason they have exceeded expectations without Victor Oladipo and, lately, without Malcolm Brogdon, who returned after a three-game absence because of a sore hamstring but had to leave this one after eight minutes when his back locked up.

The Pacers finished with 35 assists, matching a season high, on 42 field goals. Thirteen of those came in the second quarter when a "second unit" of McConnell, Aaron Holiday, Doug McDermott, Justin Holiday, and transposed starter Domantas Sabonis put together a dominating run that essentially ended the game then.

Opening the quarter with a one-point lead, that group ran off 13 consecutive points to open a 17-point lead that eventually reached 26 before halftime. Philadelphia coach Brett Brown called three timeouts in the period to try to put out the raging inferno, but it made no difference.

What makes that group so effective? Sabonis had as good an explanation as any.

"We just know what to do, you know?" he said after finishing with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists.

As tends to be the case, McConnell provided the spark, and not because his shots were dropping. After McDermott opened the second quarter with two free throws after drawing a foul on a layup attempt off a feed from Sabonis, McConnell had a direct hand in the Pacers' next six scoring possessions by:

  • Hitting a high-arching layup off Aaron Holiday's feed.
  • Assisting Justin Holiday's three-pointer.
  • Assisting Sabonis' throw-down dunk over James Ennis III.
  • Setting up Aaron Holiday's layup.
  • Scoring on a short floating shot left of the rim in transition.
  • Assisting McDermott's layup with a perfectly placed bounce pass.

The reserves also had a hand in setting up T.J. Warren's scoring outburst to end the half, with McDermott, McConnell, Aaron Holiday, and Justin Holiday all assisting Warren field goals that contributed to his 21-point total at the break on 9-of-9 shooting.

T.J. McConnell

Photo Credit: Matt Kryger

McConnell finished the quarter with six points, six assists, and no turnovers and finished the game with 11 points and 10 assists for his first double-double as a Pacer. His previous one had been on Nov. 25, 2017, when he did it for Philadelphia in a game against Orlando, although that ignores the fact he had a triple-double for the 76ers at New York later that season.

The convenient storyline for the game would have been McConnell exacting revenge on the team that let him get away in free agency, but he's never expressed bitterness over that. They did what they felt they had to do, he wishes them nothing but the best and he's happy where he's at.

"Nothing but respect," he said. "I would never hold any grudges."

McConnell proved that by wandering down to the 76ers bench after the game and exchanging greetings with virtually ever player, coach, and staff member. You have to wonder how they feel about the front office letting him get away so easily. Ask around and the common theme is that he didn’t provide a 3-point threat — he's hit only 3-of-10 all season — and struggles defensively in some matchups. But the Pacers have no complaints. McConnell is the team's assist leader on a per-minute basis and has the team's best assist-to-turnover ratio as well.

He and Aaron Holiday have combined to make Brogdon's absences more palatable. The Pacers are 5-3 without the former Rookie of the Year if Tuesday's game can be counted as one such game. The second unit's ball movement not only supplements the starters, it sometimes puts them to shame.

McMillan put added emphasis on that in the wake of Saturday's 120-98 loss in New Orleans, which was perhaps the worst performance of the Pacers' season. They had just 17 assists in that game.

"I thought we took some quick shots," McMillan said. "I didn't like the flow we had offensively in that game. We had a better flow (on Tuesday). We had great ball movement."

The Pacers ended 2019 with a 22-12 record, percentage points ahead of Philadelphia. They are on pace to win 53 games, and the asterisk that once could be attached because of their soft schedule is fading.

They are 9-6 against winning teams. They're also in fifth place in the Eastern Conference and just 2 1/2 games back of second.

Again, that's without Oladipo, and lately without Brogdon.

"We just can't wait until we have our (whole) team," Sabonis said.


Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Mark Montieth's book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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