The Sixers are set to take on the surprising Indiana Pacers, coming off the heels of a solid win against the New Orleans Pelicans. Much like the Pelicans, the Pacers have been one of the biggest surprises in the NBA thus far, sitting at a very respectable 21-17 record.
Tyrese Haliburton has done a lot with little in his brief Pacers tenure. He’ll almost certainly be an All-Star in a few months, averaging career-highs across the board — 20.7 points to go along with a stellar 10.1 assists per game. He’s the NBA leader in assists — though he’ll be behind James Harden when Harden qualifies.
Haliburton has had success against the Sixers in the past, averaging 17.6 points on 55.6 percent shooting in his career. He’s capable of lighting it up from the field, but his playmaking ability is what has really elevated Indiana thus far into the season.
While the Pacers are in the midst of a retool, they do have some solid talent surrounding their young star. Myles Turner is having a career year offensively, averaging 16.8 points to go along with his dominant rim protection. Buddy Hield is a sniper, taking nearly nine threes per game and hitting over 42 percent of them.
Benedict Mathurin will likely be a Rookie of the Year finalist, and is very capable of scoring in bunches. The Pacers still need some pieces and roster tweaking to seriously compete, but there’s a very solid foundation to be found here. The Pacers come into this game on a four-game winning streak, most recently defeating the Toronto Raptors.
In Sixerland, the team bounced back against a loaded Pelicans squad. While the first Pelicans matchup was frustrating, they’ve since won two straight games against solid opponents. Their schedule is finally starting to lighten up as well:
The #Sixers have a really easy stretch coming up after Monday’s Pelicans game:— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) January 1, 2023
1/4 vs. Pacers
1/6 vs. Bulls
1/8 @ Pistons
1/10 vs. Pistons
1/12 vs. OKC
1/14 @ Jazz
1/15 @ Lakers
In the past, Joel Embiid has dominated against Turner. They’ve matched up 11 times in their career, with Joel Embiid averaging 28 points and 12.6 rebounds per game. Turner, on the other hand, has averaged 8.5 points and 5.2 rebounds — the numbers being so low mainly due to foul trouble. Embiid is 7-4 against Turner.
Haliburton and James Harden combine for over twenty assists per game, and it’ll be a joy to see the top two playmakers go head to head. Harden has been excellent since the Rockets game. In the last 11 games he’s averaged 22.4 points on 46 percent shooting while making 40 percent of his threes (on 7.7 attempts per game). He’s dished 12.1 assists per games in that same span.
The Sixers’ defensive rating has settled in the top three, behind Memphis and Cleveland. Their offense continues to steadily climb, where they now rank 13th in the league. Haliburton has carried Indiana’s offense all the way up to 12th best, while they rank 22nd in the league in defensive rating.
Currently, the Sixers have no players listed on their injury report outside of G League assignments. For the Pacers, Isaiah Jackson (G League assignment), Chris Duarte (ankle soreness), and former Sixer Trevelin Queen (two-way) are questionable. Kendall Brown and Daniel Theis have been ruled out.
Haliburton and the Pacers are good, but the Sixers should have enough firepower to put this team away quickly. Both Harden and Embiid are averaging massive amounts of playing time this season, and the team should look to get all the rest they can in this easy stretch.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Indiana Pacers
When: 7 p.m. ET, Monday Jan. 4
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic