When Joel Embiid subbed out of Saturday night’s game with 8:38 remaining, the Philadelphia 76ers led, 98-88. It looked like in spite of everything the Sixers had done wrong up until that point of the game (and there had been plenty), they would still pull out an ugly victory over the Pacers. However, after just 2:34 had transpired on the game clock, Indiana suddenly held a 102-101 lead. Let’s take a look at what went wrong for the Sixers during the pivotal 14-3 run for the Pacers.
Myles Turner makes jump shot (Sixers 98, Pacers 90)
Honestly, the Sixers played good defense here. Turner had to go iso with the shot clock running down and hit a contested 20-footer. No indication that a collapse was underway.
Alec Burks offensive foul (Sixers 98, Pacers 90)
This offensive foul call was highly questionable. Burks attacked the rim off a cut and there was contact inside the circle, with Alec making the shot. I’m not sure what made this an offensive foul instead of a three-point play.
T.J. Warren lay-up (Sixers 98, Pacers 92)
Ben Simmons is face-guarding Warren and is worried about a double screen being set to spring Warren open up around the top of the arc. Instead, Warren backcuts along the baseline and T.J. McConnell hits him with a great pass under the rim. Smart read by both T.J.s and it’s hard to fault Ben too much when Warren had been hitting every possible outside shot.
Ben Simmons floater (Sixers 100, Pacers 92)
We see here one of the many elbow sets the Sixers ran for Simmons throughout the game. Ben drives left and finishes a tough floater in the lane surrounded by three defenders. Not time to panic yet, except...
T.J. Warren 3-pointer (Sixers 100, Pacers 95)
When Simmons hit that runner seconds earlier, his momentum took him to the floor under the basket. The Pacers quickly in-bounded and pushed the ball up the floor, with Warren stepping into a wide-open 3 at the top of the key. It’s a 5-on-4 situation, but the Sixers have to communicate better, recognize that Ben is temporarily out of the play, and pick up his man who currently had 36 points.
Ben Simmons offensive foul (Sixers 100, Pacers 95)
Likely a little frustrated at Warren scoring at the previous play, Ben gets a little aggressive trying to establish position at the elbow, throwing his own elbow up into the face of his defender. A little ticky-tack of a call, but Simmons did fling his elbow up, so the ref probably had to blow the whistle.
T.J. Warren jump shot (Sixers 100, Pacers 97)
Ben gets caught on a Myles Turner screen and Horford doesn’t step up quickly enough to stop Warren from getting the shot off. It’s still a tough contested look, but if a guy has 39 points, you can’t wait that split second that Al does. Simmons also has to do a better job getting around that screen.
Ben Simmons 1 of 2 free throws - T.J. Warren foul (Sixers 101, Pacers 97)
Another Sixers possession, another elbow set for Simmons. Ben turns and faces the basket against Warren, drives left again, and draws the foul to stop the bleeding ever so slightly.
T.J. Warren missed jump shot (Sixers 101, Pacers 97)
I’m honestly stunned Warren missed a shot. The Pacers run the exact same set as the previous possession, but this time, Matisse Thybulle takes a crack at defending Warren. Matisse also gets caught on the Turner screen, but Warren misses the open look from 20 feet at the top of the key. Thybulle does quickly contest from behind so maybe T.J. saw that in the corner of his eye and it threw him off just enough?
Shake Milton missed 3 (Sixers 101, Pacers 97)
Good look for the Sixers here, as Alec Burks penetrates the paint and draws the gaze of a few Pacers defenders. Burks kicks out to Milton, who has a wide-open shot from the wing. This was Shake’s only shot attempt of the game, though, and it clangs off the front iron.
T.J. McConnell 2 of 2 free throws - Shake Milton foul (Sixers 101, Pacers 99)
This play should have been an offensive foul on Myles Turner. Indiana runs a side pick-and-roll with McConnell and Turner, and Milton looks like he’s going to slide through just fine, until Turner reaches his arms out and pushes Shake at the last second. Turner even immediately throws his arms up to say he didn’t touch him, which is the universal gesture for being guilty of an infraction. The push throws Shake off just enough that T.J. gets a step and draws the foul in the paint.
Alec Burks missed shot (Sixers 101, Pacers 99)
The Sixers run a high pick-and-roll with Burks and Al Horford. Al doesn’t make any contact on the screen, but Burks has his defender on his back hip, so he dribbles into the paint and throws up a slightly contested runner. It’s not the worst look, but probably not the shot I’d want to see when trying to halt a run in a now-one-possession game.
Justin Holiday 3-pointer (Pacers 102, Pacers 101)
Indiana runs a series of screens to free up Justin Holiday on the wing. The Sixers are scrambling, but Raul Neto sprints out for a hard closeout and forces Holiday to pump fake and side-dribble to his right. Neto gets a slight contest on the shot, but it’s just an example of good shot-making by the former Sixer. The Pacers can do no wrong in this moment and the comeback is complete.
Zooming out at everything during the Pacers’ run, there isn’t one thing you can point to as the culprit. There were a couple shaky calls that went against the Sixers, they made a few mistakes themselves, and the Pacers made some good basketball plays. Maybe the point is just that this is how things would always go for the Sixers, except when Joel Embiid is in the game, he makes up for everything.