To say the last week of Sixers basketball has been frustrating is quite the understatement. Losses to both the Chicago Bulls and the Houston Rockets have the Sixers looking for answers, and if they don’t find them soon, they run the risk of slipping down the Eastern Conference Playoff standings.
This game has major playoff implications as the Pacers come into the Wells Fargo Center currently in third place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 42-24. The Sixers trail by only a game in the standings (41-25 record) and have the head-to-head tiebreaker, leading the season series 2-1 going into the matchup.
Fortunately, reports are that Joel Embiid will be available for the matchup after nursing knee tendinitis that kept him on the shelf for eight games. With Boban Marjanovic still sidelined, the tough task of guarding Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis will fall on both Embiid and Jonah Bolden (with Amir Johnson and Justin Patton likely both behind Bolden after playing with the Delaware Blue Coats last night). Embiid’s return will certainly be a boost to keeping the team from dipping below .500 since the All-Star break.
The Sixers are catching the Pacers at almost the same juncture of the season; both are 4-4 since the All-Star break and haven’t been playing their best basketball. The Pacers largely haven’t missed a beat since the season-ending injury to star Victor Oladipo though, as they have relied on secondary players like Turner, Sabonis, Bojan Bogdanovic and the newly acquired Wesley Matthews to fill the hole left by their top player. Most expected the team to fall apart without their best player, but Indiana has shown a fighting spirit and looks primed to steal a top four seed in the playoffs from teams like the Sixers and Boston Celtics that many believed would walk over the Pacers.
In a game where the Sixers can take the season series from the Pacers, they need to show a sense of urgency that was lacking in their game against the Rockets. The final stat line doesn’t really show how difficult that matchup was on Friday night, but Philadelphia was outplayed in basically every category of the game. This can’t happen at home or else the fans in Philly will have something to say.
The last matchup between the two teams on January 17 looked much different, as the Sixers have since picked up their fourth star in Tobias Harris, while Victor Oladipo was still available then for the Pacers. Even with both sides looking much different today, it is sure to be a competitive game between two teams fighting for seeding come playoff time.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Indiana Pacers
When: 3:30 pm EST
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Listen: 97.5 the Fanatic