Having lost to the Orlando Magic without Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, and Glen Davis, it's hard to have a whole lot of confidence when the Sixers take on the Indiana Pacers for the last regular season home game of the season tonight.
The Pacers have won 9 of their last 10 games, moving all the way up to the third seed in the Eastern Conference. While the wins have mostly been against lesser competition (the Wolves without Rubio, Milwaukee, Cleveland twice, Toronto, Washington), a convincing win against Oklahoma City and potential playoff teams like the Knicks and Houston are srpinkled in. There's no denying they're playing significantly better basketball than the Sixers currently are.
Darren Collison had missed 4 games with a groin injury before returning for their win Monday against the Wolves, although he came off the bench. Whether he or George Hill starts tonight I'm not sure, but if I had to guess I would say George Hill continues to start. Hill averaged 14.8 points and 4.6 assists in his last 5 starts. Jrue has shut Collison down in the teams previous two meetings, with his former backcourt mate at UCLA only averaging 6 points on 22.2% from the field in 28 minutes per game.
After a rough start to the season, Danny Granger
has mostly returned to form. Granger shot only 38.2% from the field before the all-star break, but has bounced back by averaging 19.4 points on 46.5% from the field and 40.3% from three point range since, and 22.4 points on 50% from the field (47.2% from three) in April. Granger missed the game when the Sixers beat the Pacers back in January.
The teams have split their two meetings so far this year, with both teams winning at home. The Sixers won 96-86 in Philly back in early January, with the Pacers winning 111-94 in Indiana last month.
In the previous 2 games, the Sixers have struggled to stop the Indiana front court, with both Hibbert and West averaging 16.5 points per game on 55.6% and 53.9% from the field, respectively. It will be interesting to see whether Doug Collins sticks with the Thaddeus Young
front court combination tonight or whether he reverts back to Vucevic/Hawes.
The Pacers are sort of the anti-Sixers, in that they don't shoot particularly great from the field but do a good job of crashing the offensive glass and get to the line at a tremendous rate. With how much the Sixers struggled on the offensive glass last night, that could become an issue. In the Pacers win last month, they should 22 free throws to the Sixers 10.
With the loss last night, the Sixers are now tied with the Knicks for the 7th seed, but due to the Sixers losing the tiebreaker they now reside in the 8th seed. The Sixers are currently 2 games ahead of Milwaukee for the final spot in the playoffs. The Sixers and Bucks play each other next week in Milwaukee.
Some of the conditions for this game align for a potential upset (Sixers playing at home, Indiana is traveling on the tail end of a back to back as well, Jrue having had success against the Indiana back court in the past), it's hard to expect it. The Sixers have beaten one playoff team in the last 3 weeks, and I can't in any good faith predict tonight will be the second.
Prediction: Pacers 99, Sixers 91