So 81-1 is officially out of the question. The Sixers dropped their second game of group play 132-126 to the Indiana Pacers Tuesday night.
Joel Embiid scored 39 points, had 12 rebounds and six assists, but turned the ball over five times and had an underwhelming fourth quarter. Tyrese Maxey came back down to earth, putting up 27 points shooting 9-of-23 from the field.
De’Anthony Melton had his best game of the year with 30 points, but Tyrese Haliburton and his 33 points and 15 assists were too much to handle.
The Sixers are now 8-2 on the season and 1-1 in In-Season Tournament group play.
Here are some thoughts at the buzzer.
- It was a slower start for the offense, as Tobias Harris was the only Sixer to make a field goal for the first four-and-a-half minutes of the game. Obi Toppin wasted no time putting Indiana out in front early with a series of fast break dunks.
- Embiid didn’t quite get it going from the field, but he drew two fouls on all three big men for the Pacers. Once Myles Turner went to the bench with two, it felt like Jalen Smith was already drawing his second foul. Third-string big Isaiah Jackson completed the set, as Embiid took eight free throws on his way to 14 first-quarter points.
- Without Kelly Oubre Jr. and Nico Batum, the Sixers are without two of their best point-of-attack defenders, and that showed in the first quarter with Tyrese Haliburton. Robert Covington drew that assignment, and on-ball defense has never been his forte even as effective as he still is. Melton, Danuel House Jr. and Furkan Korkmaz all had cracks on Haliburton to little success, as he put up 12 in the opening quarter, all coming on three-pointers. The Pacers held a six-point lead after one.
- There’s still some nights when Maxey relies a bit too much on his floater, especially against a team like this that doesn’t really have an answer for him. He started the night 0-of-4 on floaters, but got himself on the board with a step-back three. His next three baskets were all impressive drives to the rim, though the Sixers didn’t muster much else during this stretch.
Block from BBall Paul ⏩ scoop and score from Maxey pic.twitter.com/g8L7jRQbAz— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 15, 2023
- Haliburton didn’t stop making shots, but he was also able to pick apart the Sixers’ defense with skip passes. On top of his 20 first-half points, he also dished out six assists. He was just able to get whatever he wanted.
- He wasn’t as much of a disaster as he was against the Pistons, but it it a bummer to see Marcus Morris Sr. ahead of Jaden Springer in the rotation. He filled up the stat-sheet with ones in the first half. One shot (which he missed), one rebound, one assist and one foul. It just doesn’t look like he has anything left in the tank. Overall, Philly did not get the production from their bench wings they’ve grown accustomed to this early season. Danuel House turned the ball over twice just by flat out dropping the ball. It was very apparent he’s only played like, 30 total minutes this season.
- It’s been a while since this happened, but Philly was flummoxed by an unorthodox defense towards the end of the half. They threw a very small lineup at Embiid due to their foul trouble, but the Sixers just had no idea to how to get him the ball with guys fronting him. Embiid scored only four points in the second quarter, all coming from the free throw line. The Pacers took a nine-point lead into halftime.
- The second half begun with even less energy, as Haliburton seemed to be walking into shots off the pick-and-roll. It did not take long for the Pacers to push their lead to double digits and Nick Nurse to pick up a technical foul out of frustration.
- It felt like the Sixers were overpassing for much of the night, and that was pretty apparent in their shot distribution. Through three quarters they had only taken 14 shots from downtown while the Pacers hoisted up 33. They just need to be taking more threes, especially with a point guard who shot 7-of-11 from three last game.
- The good thing for the Sixers is that the one guy who was taking threes all night was making them. Melton’s struggled out of the gate, but his jumper was falling from outside tonight. He had 25 through three quarters, and had three of the Sixers’ four made shots from beyond the arc. Melton also got to the line 10 times by the end of the quarter, helping to cut the lead to one as the quarter ended.
- It was a wonderful end of the quarter for Melton, but he was called for a foul with less than a second left, picking up his fifth of the evening, handicapping Philly for the fourth after they were already thin on the wing.
- OK, the Marcus Morris Sr. minutes in the second half were a total disaster. He got blown off the dribble by T.J. McConnell, he got completely lost when his man would cut to the basket, and he airballed a 14-footer.
- A really scary moment early in the quarter as Bruce Brown fell on top of Tobias Harris pretty hard after biting on a pump fake. It looked like Harris’ neck took the brunt of it, but KJ Martin had to take his free throw for him because of the concussion protocol. Harris appeared to be OK, only missing about a minute-and-a-half of game time.
- The super-long review ended up giving the Sixers a do-over at the two free throws Martin took (and missed). The Sixers were supposed to pick who took the shots instead of Harris, but it was the Pacers who picked Martin. A very weird pause in the game but the Sixers did get their two points in the end.
- It’s absurd how good Maxey’s stepback three is. Even as a good three-point shooter that wasn’t in his arsenal to this degree last year. After a rough night he got hot again in the final quarter, this stepback getting things going for him.
- His offensive numbers looked great tonight, but this was probably Embiid’s worst defensive game of the season. He was getting beat on the first move a lot and wasn’t recovering to affect shots, giving the Pacers a pretty easy night at the rim. Obi Toppin probably benefitted the most from this, going for a season-high 26 points.
- That weird replay halted a lot of Sixers momentum on offense, but they were out of sync all night. They turned the ball over 16 times, most of them were self-inflicted. Embiid took a brutal travel, then a shot-clock violation on the next possession killed any comeback hopes.
- Not much time to think about this one, as the Sixers are back here tomorrow night to take on the Boston Celtics at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.