Saturday, March 18 at 7:00 PM ET at Gainbridge Fieldhouse
Game Recap: 76ers 141, Pacers 121
Coming off an impressive win on Thursday night in Milwaukee, the Pacers were hoping to make it two in a row against East contenders on Saturday. But Indiana couldn't slow down Philadelphia's offense, as the 76ers scorched the nets all night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
The Sixers (47-22) shot 61.4 percent from the field and pulled away in the second half for a 141-121 victory. It was the eighth straight victory for Philadelphia, which has won twice in Indianapolis in the last 12 days to sweep the season series with the Pacers (32-39).
Aaron Nesmith had a career-high 25 points to lead six Pacers in double figures in the loss, but it wasn't enough to overcome the offensive onslaught from Philadelphia.
Joel Embiid, the NBA's leading scorer, tallied 31 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists in just 29 minutes, going 10-for-15 from the field and 10-for-13 from the free throw line. And Tyrese Maxey stepped up in the absence of All-Star point guard James Harden, dropping 22 of his 31 points in the first half.
"We didn't do enough to disrupt those guys," Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said of Embiid and Maxey's performances. "22-for-33 (combined from the floor) is ridiculous. That's them doing an awful lot of good things and us not doing enough good things to make it hard for them."
The loss prevented the Pacers from moving into position for the upcoming Play-In Tournament. Indiana will need to climb to at least 10th in the standings over its final 11 games to secure a spot in the Play-In.
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Back-to-back threes by Nesmith and Jordan Nwora propelled Indiana to an early 12-4 lead four minutes into Saturday's contest. That forced an early timeout from Sixers head coach Doc Rivers.
The visitors responded, reeling off 14 unanswered points -- including six from Maxey -- to surge in front.
Nesmith ended a three-minute Indiana drought with a three, but Philadelphia answered with another 10-2 spurt to push the margin to double digits. The visitors shot 52 percent from the field and went 5-for-12 from 3-point range in the opening frame to take a 34-24 lead after the first 12 minutes.
The Pacers' bench mounted a charge in the second quarter. Oshae Brissett and Jalen Smith scored seven points apiece as Indiana outscored the Sixers 20-12 over the first four-and-a-half minutes of the frame to climb back within two.
But the Pacers never retook the lead and Philadelphia closed the half strong. DeAnthony Melton knocked down a three with 29.4 seconds left to push the visitors' lead to 70-61, then stripped Nwora on the other end. Embiid drew a foul with 2.8 seconds left and made both free throws to give the Sixers a double-digit advantage at the intermission.
The Pacers trimmed the deficit to 76-71 early in the second half following Buddy Hield's 3-pointer just over two minutes into the third quarter. But Melton, Tobias Harris, and Maxey all drained threes during a subsequent 16-6 Philadelphia run that extended the lead to 15.
Myles Turner did his best to prevent the Pacers from being blown out, scoring eight of 10 Indiana points in the latter stages of the frame, capped by an impressive fadeaway over Embiid that made it 103-92 with 1:45 remaining in the quarter.
On the other end, Turner and Embiid collided and Turner immediately reached for his left ankle after hitting the deck. He was subbed out of the game, but would return in the fourth.
The 76ers took a 106-95 lead into the fourth quarter, then opened the final frame with nine straight points to push the margin to 20. The visitors ultimately cruised to victory, with Embiid joining Harden in watching the entire fourth quarter from the bench.
"They just shot the hell out of the ball," Turner said. "Obviously Embiid presents his problems, but when you try to double him, he just makes the right play. Guys knocked down shots and it's unfortunate, but sometimes you've got to tip your cap."
Andrew Nembhard tallied 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting in the loss, while Turner finished with 20 points and five rebounds. Starting his second straight game, Nwora registered 13 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. Hield and Smith each also finished with 13 points.
Harris had 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting (4-of-6 from 3-point range), five boards, and four assists for Philadelphia. Melton stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, five rebounds, five assists, and six steals.
The Sixers elected to sit Harden to allow the veteran to rest his ailing foot on the second night of a back-to-back. The Pacers, meanwhile, were without their All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton for the fourth straight game as he deals with a sprained ankle. Reserve guards Chris Duarte and Bennedict Mathurin also sat due to ankle injuries.
The Pacers will embark on a four-game road trip next week that begins in Charlotte on Monday before continuing on to Toronto, Boston, and Atlanta. The Blue & Gold will then return home for five of their final seven contests.
"Anything can happen these next 11 games," Turner said. "We're still in a position to make this Play-In Tournament and that's everybody in this locker room's goal...We're going to compete every night and just give it all we've got."
Inside the Numbers
Nesmith followed up a 22-point performance in which he hit a career-best six threes in Milwaukee with a career-best 25-point outing, going 9-for-16 from the field and 4-for-9 from beyond the arc. He has now set a new career high in points four times this season.
Nembhard topped 20 points for the second straight game. Starting at point guard for the last four games with Haliburton sidelined, the rookie out of Gonzaga has averaged 20 points and 5.5 assists while shooting 48.4 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from 3-point range.
Turner registered 20 points for the 24th time this season.
Nwora reached double figures for the 10th straight game.
The Pacers had a solid night offensively, shooting 51.7 percent from the field and 12-for-31 (38.7 percent) from 3-point range. The Sixers were just better, going 54-for-88 (61.4 percent) from the field and 15-for-35 (42.9 percent) from beyond the arc.
Philadelphia scored 23 points off 17 Indiana turnovers, while the Pacers only forced eight Sixers turnovers and converted them into just eight points.
Postgame Media Availability: March 18, 2023
You Can Quote Me On That
"Right now, he's probably the MVP with what they're team is doing and how he's just elevated his game. He's as difficult a guy to gameplan for as there is in the game...He had 31 points in less than three quarters and made it look like he wasn't even trying to do it. We threw a lot of things at him. He's a great player, he's a walking NBA cheat code right now." -Carlisle on Embiid
"Just trying to slow the game down, playing at a better pace. And still letting my teammates find me in good spots and playing off of them." -Nesmith on his increased scoring over the last two games
"Good recognition, measured aggression - being aggressive in the right situations. And his shot's been in rhythm the last few games. Good to see. He's one of our real, hard-playing guys...He's a soldier, man. He's what we're going to be about -- that kind of attitude, that kind of approach." -Carlisle on Nesmith's performance
"I think he's just being aggressive. He's just picking and choosing his spots...He has all the talent in the world, it's just a matter of applying it in certain situations. He's doing a much better job of picking and choosing his spots. The maturation is definitely there." -Turner on Nesmith
"It's a lot of fun. This is what I wanted. I wanted to have a bigger role. I wanted to get the opportunity to play and make mistakes and just contribute to winning on both sides of the ball. I've got the opportunity to do that here. I'm going to continue to do it and get better and continue to learn." -Nesmith on getting major minutes after two seasons of playing sparingly in Boston
"The force that I'm going to the rim with, the amount of shots that I'm taking at the rim instead of mid-range shots. I think I'm just being more aggressive in transition, understanding when to play with fast pace, when to slow it down...I've found my pace a bit more the last few games." -Nembhard with where he's grown running the point in Haliburton's absence
"He's got some real unique skill for a guy that's 6-7, 6-8. The style that we play, you've got to make quick reads, quick decisions...I think it's just a matter of getting more and more used to how we play as opposed to how the Bucks play. We're allowing him the latitude to do some more things with our system. In Milwaukee he was really a spot-up guy and did that extremely well. But this is really an exploration phase with him. We're finding things out." -Carlisle on Nwora's playmaking
"I sympathize with Jordan just because we came from a similar situation. Him getting the opportunity to play here and be himself and make mistakes and not look over his shoulder, it's amazing. It's a great feeling. He's proven and continuing to prove why he's a high-level player." -Nesmith on Nwora's new opportunity in Indiana
Stat of the Night
After dropping 147 points in their victory over the Pacers on March 6, Philadelphia scored 141 on Saturday. Those are the two highest-scoring performances by a Pacers opponent in regulation all season.
- With Saturday's win, the Sixers swept the season series with the Pacers for the first time since the 2004-05 season. In addition to their two wins at The Fieldhouse, the Sixers also beat Indiana in Philadelphia on Oct. 24 and Jan. 4.
- The Blue & Gold are 19-17 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on the season and need to win two of their final five home contests to secure a winning record on their homecourt.
- New Colts head coach Shane Steichen attended Saturday's game along with the entire Colts coaching staff.
The Pacers open a four-game road trip in Charlotte against Gordon Hayward and the Hornets on Monday, March 20 at 7:00 PM ET.
After a four-game road trip, the Pacers will return to Gainbridge Fieldhouse to host Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, March 27 at 7:00 PM ET. Find Tickets >>