The Sixers failed to extend their 3-game winning streak in Indiana tonight, falling to the Pacers by a pretty significant margin, 111-94.
If you just look at the offensive numbers, you most likely would have thought they either won or lost by one or two possessions. The young whipper-snappers Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner combined for 38 points on 16-19 shooting, Elton Brand was 8-13 from the floor and his mid-range game was stroking like the EB of season's past, and the Sixers shot 6-13 from behind the three-point line. If you were at your little cousin's first bowling tournament or a Rick Astley meet-n-greet and I sent you those stats via text, you'd probably be feeling pretty good about the Sixers chances at a win. Considering that offensive output, all that was needed was a decently well-defended game from the Sixers for the win. Since they're the number one ranked defense in the NBA, this had to have happened, right? Is anyone listening?
As you talked to yourself in either a bowling alley or the Gyro Company (where the Astley event was held), the Sixers were busy getting blasted on the defensive end by an absolutely on-fire Indiana Pacer squad (goon squad included). The Pacers were getting a ton of open looks all night long and were hitting pretty much everything they were getting. Danny Granger, who was inactive during the first match-up of these two teams, connected on 7 of 9 attempts from inside the three point line despite being guarded by all-universe defender Andre Iguodala. Whether it was a mid-ranger off the pass, off the dribble, or an attempt at the rim, Granger couldn't miss. The only attempts he couldn't get to fall were the 3-pointers, but one of his teammates in particular took care of that.
More after the jump.
Coming off the bench for the Pacers was another guy who didn't play against the Sixers back at the start of the season, George Hill. Certified member of their version of the Night-Shift, named the Goon Squad, Hill buried his 3 attempts from beyond the arc, each as lethal as the next.
Despite the hot-hands of the Pacers and less than stellar defense, the Sixers were able to hang tough through the first three quarters. Throughout the entire third they were within 5 points at any given time until the last minute when the Pacers began their onslaught. Dahntay Jones drilled an open three from the corner, Louis Williams missed badly on your typical BOSSiso, and Hill dropped the first of the 3 triples before the horn sounded to give the Pacers an 8 point lead.
It was that last play of the quarter that beautifully illustrated the Sixers defensive effort for the game. Hill brought the ball across half-court and Dre picked him up. Tyler Hansbrough came over and set a screen on Dre's right. Hill used the screen, Dre didn't get around while Thaddeus Young (who probably had his worst defensive game of the season), who was guarding Hans-Bo at the time, didn't hedge out on the shooter giving Hill as clean a look as he couldn't ever want. Not closing out on shooters was a big theme for the Sixers team tonight. Seeing as they're third in the league in opponents three-point percentage, I'm chalking tonight up as an anomaly; a poor effort that I don't expect to surface frequently the rest of the season.
Hill and the Pacers continued to put up points like it's going out of style in the fourth quarter, not allowing the Sixers to decrease the margin by any less than 7, ending the game on a 16-6 run.
A few other observations:
- Tonight was Spencer Hawes' first game since the February 6th win against the Lakers and it was evident. Spence looked either confused or a step behind on offensive sets in his 20 minutes tonight, which was to be expected. On the plus side had a few nice cuts to the basket off double-teams and pick-and-rolls , but there's still work to be done. If he truly is healthy enough to be playing, I expect him to get back in the swing of things within a week or so.
- Jrue couldn't hit a shot a couple days ago in New York but was the complete opposite today, hitting his first 7 attempts from the field. If there was one bright spot defensively, it was this man right here. While he normally doesn't fair too well against college teammate Darren Collison, Jrue kept him in check better than any other Sixer was able to do so with their respective assignments. Jrue's tasks were Collison and AJ Price who combined to go 3-12 from the field. In a night where every other Pacer was hitting, their shortcomings didn't mean much at all.
- Mr. Turner eclipsed that coveted superallstarmvp line of 20 points tonight, hitting jumpshots to boot. The two that made me giggle and squiggle the most were back to back jumpers in the fourth quarter where he set his feet and dropped two straight in rhythm. Being the pessimists we are around here, Mike noted (in the game thread) that Evan was hitting a good amount of long twos and that worried him, thinking Evan may start to fall in love with it. That's us!
- There was a lot of complaining about the officiating tonight in the game thread and also from Sixers players during game action. They certainly were not the cause of the loss by any means, but holy Vonteego Cummings did they miss a lot of calls.
- Did you listen to Mike on WIP? I did! He sounded like a mix between Burt Reynolds and Penny Marshall.
- The Sixers are back to losing games that I write about. I'll share the blame along with Jordan, who missed most of the second half.
- George Hill just hit another shot.
At the end of the day, this loss is nothing I'm going to worry about. It was just a case of a poor defensive effort (unlike the Sixers) running into a team that couldn't miss a shot. I'd be willing to bet a game like this won't happen for the rest of the season. It would have been nice to get this one tonight considering the next two are against the Heat, who the Sixers just can't beat, and at Chicago against the Bulls. Do you guys think the Sixers could come out of that back-to-back with a win? We'll find out come Friday.