With the loss, the Sixers drop what could be a pivotal season series.
The Sixers fell to the Indiana Pacers last night, to a score of 101-98. The Sixers won two of four quarters and tied another, but the ten point deficit that they found themselves in at the end of the first quarter would prove to be a mountain that they couldn’t climb. That ten point first quarter deficit was built on the back of seven turnovers, four of which came from Joel Embiid. The Sixers would finish the game with 21 turnovers, a number that they have met or surpassed 12 times this season. Of the 91 games in this NBA season where a team has committed 21 or more turnovers, the Sixers have been the perpetrators of those turnovers 13.3% of the time. Unsurprisingly, they lead the league in this statistic by a large margin, with the second highest number of qualifying games being eight played by the Denver Nuggets.
I watched all of these turnovers (what a way to start a morning), hoping to find out that the Pacers were running an innovative defensive scheme that allowed them to pick up 13 steals on the night. Unfortunately, all I saw was poor decision making and sloppy play. The majority of the turnovers were off of bad passes, which became steals for the Pacers instead of balls out of bounds. The Sixers showed a lack of focus and awareness of where the Pacers players were on defense, allowing them to intercept passes and gain possession. Embiid also appeared to forget that just because he is taller than everyone, doesn’t mean the opponent can’t get to balls that are directly over their head.
When asked about the turnovers in his press conference, Brett Brown said “I feel he [Joel] is improving as a passer out of the post. Like he’s improving as a willing passer and I think some of his reads are sophisticated reads. I feel like we’re getting better on the floor sports that we need to be in, where he knows where his outlets are. And other times people are pecking at the ball and it squirts out, like we have to get stronger at times with the ball. Some of the first few passes, where you’re looking at somebody open but not really sort of judging the distance or people’s hands where ball goes into hands, I think it all adds up.”
Additionally, he was asked why we are still talking about turnover problems when it has been an issue all season. He answered, “I think it is hard to expedite people’s birth certificate. You’re seeing young guys, if you go to who and where, we’ve got to get better with some individuals. As a team, we’ve got to get better. Some of it I have to own. I think when you look at the trending that has been going on say after the All-Star break we are improving. Tonight wasn’t one of those nights.”
T.J. McConnell was asked the same question, and his response was a little different, “Just bonehead plays. But it comes from being unselfish. Some of the turnovers are just trying to make the extra pass and that’s just the kind of guys we have. We’re just trying to get the best available shot but sometimes, you know, that’s not the best shot. We’ll live with us being unselfish but you just got to take care of it.”
To add insult to injury, the Pacers won this game without playing particularly well, giving stock to the idea that the Sixers simply beat themselves last night. They shot 40% from the field, a mark that is in the bottom 10% for their season. They also shot 21% from 3, making only 5 of their 24 attempts. Most of those makes came in the first half, as they shot 1/11 in the second half, with their only 3-pointer coming from Victor Oladipo with 3:18 left in the game to put the Pacers up by 8.
The Pacers shots may not have been going in but they beat the Sixers in three other statistical categories that showed how the night went. The first is points off turnovers. I’ve discussed the Sixers’ turnovers ad nauseam but failed to mention that the Pacers had 29 points off of the 21 Sixer turnovers. In comparison, the Sixers were able to score only 12 points on the 10 Pacer turnovers. Second, the Sixers were out offensive rebounded by the Pacers 41-31. Luckily, the Pacers were only 50% on their second chance points, or the disparity would have shown up much more significantly in the score. Hand-in-hand with those offensive rebounds are the number of shots that were taken between the two teams. Indiana had 95 shots on the night, while the Sixers only had 75. The Sixers’ 75 shots are tied for their fourth lowest number of shots taken for the season.
Next, the Sixers will take on the New York Knicks on Thursday. The Sixers are 2-0 against the Knicks this season, and look to recreate their Christmas Day win at Madison Square Garden.
Robert Covington had a streaky night shooting, something that is becoming more and more commonplace. However, his impact on defense cannot be undersold. When Covington was on the floor, there was not a stretch of time in which the Sixers were outscored. In fact, the Pacers went on an 18-6 run the first time that Covington was taken off the floor, those 12 points being equal to their biggest lead of the game. He finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
Both Dario Saric and J.J. Redick had strong offensive showings. Saric finished with 18 points, despite being questionable going into the game with a case of gastroenteritis. Redick scored 16 points, on 80% shooting from three.
Embiid hit the court a lot last night. He hasn’t seemed to be in pain or slowed down by these injuries, but they still make the fans hold their breath.
Domantas Sabonis left the game with 1:51 left in the 3rd quarter after Embiid fell on his ankle as the result of a Trevor Booker push. Sabonis was helped off the court and limped to the locker room. The Pacers later reported that it was a sprain and he was questionable to return (he did not return).
Lance Stephenson was out doing Lance Stephenson things last night. After a hard foul by Ben Simmons, Stephenson pointed at the rookie point guard indicating that he was on his list. Later, Embiid was assessed a technical foul after pushing Stephenson in the back. In addition to agitating his opponents, Stephenson also contributed 11 points.
The Sixers held Bojan Bogdanovic to only two points on 1/11 shooting. Bogdanovic is averaging 14.2 points this season with a field goal percentage of 47.4%
The Sixers were able to contain Myles Turner in their previous meeting but weren’t as successful last night. Turner finished with 25 points and 6 rebounds. Former Sixer Thaddeus Young also had a strong showing, notching a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Embiid dunked the ball 5 times last night, including 3 times in the last 5 minutes of the game. This one is my personal favorite.