Game Recap: Pacers 112, 76ers 85
Paul George proved to be too much for the 76ers (0-12) on Wednesday night at The Center. The two-time All-Star forward exploded for 34 points, and powered the Indiana Pacers (7-5) to a 112-85 victory. The win was the seventh for Indiana in its last nine games.
For the better part of the first half, the Sixers stayed within striking distance of the Pacers, tying the contest at 29 four minutes into the second quarter. From there, the visitors began to ramp up their three-point attack, establishing a 14-point margin by intermission. In the third, Indiana unleashed George, who fueled a pivotal 15-2 surge. The Sixers didn’t get within 20 points the rest of the way. In addition to George, C.J. Miles also made his presence felt, posting 20 points.
From the outset of the contest, turnovers forced the Sixers to battle uphill. They committed seven cough-ups in the first quarter, and finished the evening with a season-high 31 giveaways. As a result, the Pacers held a 37-10 advantage in points off turnovers. T.J. McConnell led the Sixers with 16 points. He set a new career-high in scoring for a second straight game. Jahlil Okafor had 14 points and six rebounds, while Jerami Grant equaled his season-best by depositing 13 points for a second consecutive outing.
The Sixers’ showed great energy in the first two minutes of the second quarter. Down five points, Jahlil Okafor sparked a quick run that pulled the Sixers to within one. His set himself up for the first of two field goals in a row by displaying effective footwork on the block. His second bucket came via an athletic baseline hook shot. Nik Stauskas capped the 6-2 spurt with a lay-up.
Brett Brown Said - On the Sixers’ loss to the Indiana Pacers:
“It starts with our abundance of turnovers. I felt it was one of those games that was an outlier for this groups."
When asked about the Sixers’ starting line-up before the game, Brett Brown revealed he had a wrinkle in place. His plan was to bring Nerlens Noel in off the bench, so that Jerami Grant could initially be used to match-up with Paul George, Indiana’s dangerous, versatile, and athletic All-Star forward.
Frank Vogel, the Pacers head coach and a Wildwood High School product, threw off Brown’s plot by putting together a bigger-than-usual line-up that featured former Sixer Lavoy Allen at power forward. Consequently, Brown went back to his starting five from the past three games, giving nods to T.J. McConnell, Nik Stauskas, Grant, Noel, and Jahlil Okafor.
Even though Noel started the game, he impressed members of his team with how he handled the possibility of serving as a reserve.
“It’s just another example of these guys willing to do whatever it takes to go find a win,” Brown said. “Nerlens is all in,”
“For our best player to be that selfless, I think it’s going to have an account on everyone here to...take a look at ourselves and see what we can do for the team as well,” said Okafor. The rookie felt Noel dealt with the potential situation professionally.
“He’s just a winner, and just works hard everyday. For him to [potentially] come off the bench and not mind at all says a lot about him, and makes me want to be more selfless.”
Noel was limited to two points and three rebounds in 23 minutes of action.
Jahlil Okafor said he was feeling better a day after getting hit in the mouth by Christian Wood at practice. The impact caused him to bite and cut his tongue. The rookie was listed as probable going into Wednesday’s meeting with Indiana.
“It was bad [Tuesday],” Okafor said about the injury. “I couldn’t talk. I tried eating oatmeal. It still stung a little bit. I’m good now. It’s just a little sore.”
Okafor confirmed that the laceration didn’t require stitches.
Paul George’s impact on the game can’t be overstated. The sixth-year pro displayed impressive range, knocking down nine of his 13 made field goals from a distance of 20 feet or greater.
George’s 34-point outburst marked his second-highest total of the season, and was the latest showing in a dominant stretch. Entering Wednesday’s contest with the Sixers, George was averaging 29 points over his past eight games, and looking every bit like the player who earned All-Star bids in 2013 and 2014. That August, a compound leg fracture threatened to derail his promising career
“Despite how well I’ve been playing of late, I still feel I’m working on getting back to where I was,” George said following Indiana’s shoot-around on Wednesday. “Still some things I’m trying to learn, recover from a performance standpoint. As far as what I’m doing on the court, all of that feels normal, back to natural. I feel healthy. It’s very minimal, but there’s still a piece of me that’s not all the way back.”
Brett Brown called George’s comeback an “amazing story.”
The Sixers open a season-high tying six-game road trip on Friday at 7:00 PM EST against the Charlotte Hornets (6-6). Charlotte began the season with three consecutive losses, which were decided by a combined total of 15 points. Since then, the Hornets have started to turn things around, posting wins over Chicago, Dallas, Minnesota, New York, Portland, and Brooklyn over their past nine contests. Charlotte had a busy off-season in hopes of recapturing its playoff form from 2014. Most notably, the team dealt Lance Stephenson to the Los Angeles Clippers, marking the end of a failed free agent venture that lasted only one season. As part of the deal, the Hornets acquired former Sixer Spencer Hawes (4.9 pts, 3.4 reb). Charlotte also traded for former Portland Trail Blazer Nicolas Batum, and signed Jeremy Lin. Batum is averaging a team-best 16.5 points per game, and accounts for 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists as well. Former Wisconsin standout Frank Kaminsky was the organization’s top draft pick this June.