After collectively acting as Spencer Dinwiddie’s personal agent on Wednesday (hey, any percentage of $34 million is a good night’s work), the Sixers conclude a three-game home stand tonight by welcoming both a national television crew and the Indiana Pacers. Indiana sits at 18-10 on the season, a mere half-game behind the 19-10 76ers. The Pacers enter play riding a five-game winning streak, including a dominating 16-point win over Milwaukee Wednesday night. In that game, All-Star and reigning MIP Victor Oladipo returned to the lineup and played 29 minutes following an 11-game absence due to a knee injury.
While Indiana is basically back to full strength, the Sixers were using in-timeout promotions Wednesday to see if any fans’ jump shots were pure enough to help fill out the rotation. With Jimmy Butler and Mike Muscala both out against Brooklyn, head coach Brett Brown essentially condensed his rotation to seven players. Those two guys remain questionable heading into Friday; the return of either would be a welcome boost against a tough Eastern Conference foe.
Indiana has found success this season in a rock-solid defense that ranks second in the league with a 102.4 defensive rating. The Sixers get a good chuck of their offense by earning trips to the free throw line (often by Joel Embiid), but the Pacers have the third-lowest opposing free throw rate in the NBA (23.0%). They also force the fifth-highest percentage of opposing turnovers (16.3%), which is an area the Sixers have slightly improved upon, but we’re by no means living in the days of Doug Collins-enforced ball security (and thank god for that).
In the teams’ first meeting this season back in early November, Philadelphia prevailed in what qualifies as a bit of a rock fight these days, 100-94. Victor Oladipo went off for 36 points, but only two other Pacers even reached in double figures. That sort of “let Oladipo get his but shut down everyone else” strategy might be the path again Friday, especially considering Robert Covington is no longer around and Butler may be out again. If Spencer Dinwiddie can nearly drop a 40-spot, I shudder to think what Dipo might do tonight.
The bright lights of a curious nation upon them. A high-caliber opponent hungry to enter the upper crust of the Eastern Conference staring back at them. Yes, tonight will be a challenge for our Philadelphia 76ers. Let’s see if they’re up to it.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Indiana Pacers
When: 7:30pm EST
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: ESPN, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Sixers: Jimmy Butler (questionable, groin), Mike Muscala (questionable, upper respiratory infection), Markelle Fultz (out, shoulder), Zhaire Smith (out, foot), Justin Patton (out, foot)
Pacers: Kyle O’Quinn (questionable, illness)