Not all wins are pretty, and the Sixers proved that on Sunday afternoon in their 106-89 victory over the Indiana Pacers. In a game with major playoff implications, the Sixers had a chance to grab the third seed in the Eastern Conference from the Pacers with the win, and you could tell from the very start that a lot was on the line. Fans were hyped up for this matchup; couple that with Joel Embiid returning from an eight-game absence and the Wells Fargo Center was rocking especially hard for this one.
The first quarter was a back-and-forth affair that saw Bojan Bogdanovic get going early for the Pacers, routinely beating Jimmy Butler on his way to 7 early points. Tobias Harris was his usual efficient scoring self, leading both teams in scoring with 9 points on 4-for-6 shooting in the opening frame.
The main takeaway of the first quarter had to have been the questionable foul call on Joel Embiid though. Embiid and Domantas Sabonis came together on the baseline and Sabonis ended up falling, throwing the ball up in the process. Referees decided that Embiid stuck his leg out and tripped Sabonis and rewarded him two free throws (Editor’s note: Replays showed Embiid in no way made contact with Sabonis). Embiid didn’t agree and made sure the referees knew it, gaining a technical for his efforts. In the end, the technical didn’t hurt the team too much as the Sixers ended the quarter with a 26-25 lead.
Everything that worked for the Sixers in the first quarter failed in the second, and the Pacers capitalized. Joel Embiid picked up his third foul just one minute in and had to sit for a large chunk of the second quarter. Because of this, the Pacers went on two separate runs, a 14-5 run and a 10-2 run that gave Indiana a 59-51 lead going into the half. The Sixers’ bench problems reared their ugly head once again as they were outscored by the Pacers’ second unit 28-8 in the first half.
Whatever was said in the locker room at halftime sure woke the team up though, as the Sixers stepped up on both sides of the ball to make this a game again. Early in the third quarter, both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis picked up their fourth fouls, forcing the Pacers to play outside instead of banging down low for easy baskets. This played into the Sixers’ favor, as Indiana went on to miss 12 straight field goal attempts at the end of the third quarter, going 3-for-20 over the entire 12 minutes. The Sixers took a 72-70 lead heading into the final frame.
The fourth quarter was the Joel Embiid show. After a slow start, the superstar center went to work on his opponents to close out the game. With both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis in foul trouble he was able to dominate down low and score 18 fourth quarter points. A few extra defensive stops to start the quarter ballooned the Pacers’ missed field goal streak to 16 straight shots and gave the Sixers a chance to run away with the game. Great all-around games by Ben Simmons (15-4-6) and Joel Embiid (33-15) helped the Sixers keep the opposition at arm’s-length the entire quarter, and a big 106-89 win was the result.
The win not only gives the Sixers sole possession of third place in the Eastern Conference, it also gives them the season series win over the Pacers, going 3-1 against Indiana this season. If it comes down to a tiebreaker between the two teams, the Sixers will now have the edge. After a few games where the Sixers weren’t playing their best basketball, it was good to get back on the winning side at home. The return of Embiid is huge and as long as he is on the court and at the top of his game, the Sixers look like one of the best teams in the league.