Game Recap | Team Effort Triggers Rare Win in Indy
For the 76ers (7-5) to ultimately become the team they hope to be, their two young studs will have to continue playing like stars.
Also apparent, however, in the early stages of the season is that the team’s fortunes will likely hinge on other members of the roster stepping up, too.
Against the Indiana Pacers Wednesday, Joel Embiid (20 pts, 10 reb) and Ben Simmons (16 pts, 10 reb, 8 ast) once again turned in big nights. Such has been the norm in just about every game to date.
But what helped the Sixers escape Bankers Life Fieldhouse with a 100-94 victory - their coveted first road win of the year - were the contributions of the surrounding cast, plus some stingy second-half defense.
“I’m excited for the group that we got our first road win this year,” said Brett Brown.
The Sixers’ most recent win in Indianapolis came at the end of the 2012-13 season, pre-dating Brown’s arrival in Philadelphia by a few months.
“It’s been a hard place to play.”
As for the help the Sixers’ received Wednesday, it came from a variety of places.
Having spent much of the last month working to recapture his form, Dario Saric broke out for a season-best 18 points. He scored twice while helping the Sixers build a 15-point in the opening six minutes of play, then later hit a 3-pointer that gave the club its first lead of the third quarter.
Down the stretch, Saric’s fourth and final triple moved the Sixers’ margin to a game-high 17 points. The cushion was enough to get the job done.
“He looked like he had a lot of fun,” Simmons said of Saric.
Robert Covington also emerged as a key performer Wednesday. He scored all 13 of his points in the second stanza, including six in a row to close out the third period.
The spurt, which consisted of an and-1 lay-up off the glass, and a 3-pointer, allowed the Sixers to maintain control when momentum was tenuous.
There were also Markelle Fultz and Landry Shamet.
Fultz, who pitched in with seven points, two rebounds, four assists, and a career-high four steals, was at the controls during a 10-minute chunk of the second half that saw the Sixers increase their edge from one point to 11.
For Shamet, responsible for 12 points, it was more of the same. Shot-making, and reliable all-around play from a rookie who has quickly earned the trust of his coaching staff.
“It was overall a good team win,” said Embiid. “We just got to keep building on it.”
Despite an auspicious start to Wednesday’s tilt, the Sixers watched Indiana fight back behind a 13-0 second-quarter surge. All-Star guard Victor Oladipo erupted for a season-best 36 points, but the Sixers, thanks to a true collective effort, survived.
Saric Stands Out
On a team of hard-working players, Dario Saric puts in about as much time as anyone.
Extra shots after practice, checking into the training complex on non-practice days. Whatever it takes to get better, the Croatian is probably willing to do it.
Having entered Wednesday’s game averaging 9.8 points per game and shooting at a 34.0 percent clip (23.2 percent from three), Saric was due. From start to finish against Indiana, he left his mark.
“I told him to go out there and shoot the ball, who cares if you miss,” Ben Simmons said. “That’s your job, knock down shots. If you miss, we’ll get another shot. Just keep shooting them.”
Saric did, and with what appeared to be a good amount of confidence. On this night, those shots indeed fell, producing important ripple effects.
“He opens up everything. Now, we have another scorer,” said Joel Embiid. “We’ve been supporting him, and I’m glad he finally showed up.”
The x-factor was essential.
'Fun' Fuels Win
The difference between the Sixers we saw in Sunday’s tough loss at Brooklyn and Wednesday’s spirited win in Indianapolis?
A simple, three-letter ingredient had been missing, according to Ben Simmons.
“We just had fun. Honestly, just have fun.
“I think we were just overthinking things, putting too much pressure on ourselves.”
A change in mindset triggered a change in results. Free of expectations, the Sixers felt they played looser.
The byproduct was a quality win that was enjoyable to be a part of.
“Who cares what people think, as long as you go out there, play hard, play for your team, and have fun,” Simmons said.
The attitude was advantageous.
Sham Slam, and Then Some
It’s getting to the point where valuable games off the bench are becoming routine for Landry Shamet.
With his 12-point outing against Indiana, the 2018 no. 26 pick has now scored in double-figures in four straight games. In each of these contests, he’s also hit at least two 3-pointers, while shooting 40.0 percent or better from beyond the arc.
During Wednesday’s second half, Shamet got the chance to show off another dimension of his offensive game. Solely a perimeter shooter the Wichita State product clearl is not.
First NBA dunk
First NBA road win
Great team win and a whole lot more room for growth! https://t.co/E2Chzg3EFc
— Landry Shamet (@landryshamet) November 8, 2018
Shamet said he felt a sense of relief following Wednesday’s win.
“Got one on the road. It’s been kind of our struggle so far this season. Winning on the road is important. You got a steal wins on the road when you can. It felt good.”
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‘Gram of the Game:
There were fireworks in the kitchen early.
In the midst of a stretch in which five of six games will be played on the road, the Sixers will stop at home Friday to host the Charlotte Hornets for the second time in the first three weeks of the new year. Round 1 went to the Sixers, 105-103, back on October 27th. Charlotte came up short despite a 37-point effort from All-Star Kemba Walker. Walker is tied for third in the NBA in scoring (28.1 ppg). The Hornets, meanwhile, will head into Friday’s match-up having won three of four.