The Philadelphia Sixers (25-40) played host to the Eastern Conference’s 2nd-seeded Indiana Pacers (40-26). On paper, the Pacers are the much better team; they have talented bigs in David West and Roy Hibbert and an athletic All-Star in Paul George. They are also one of the only teams who serious threats to the Heat. The one thing that the Sixers have that would allow them to win is heart. The Sixers can out-hustle any opponent they come up against and their hard work paid off tonight.
To get the game started, the Pacers were at a severe disadvantage. Their star, Danny Granger, was out due to a knee injury, David West found himself in foul trouble, and Paul George shot 2-8 from the field in the first half. Despite these setbacks, the Sixers could not fully take advantage as they found themselves down by 1 at the half. There were several things that were working for the Sixers including their ball movement, the play of Spencer Hawes, and the decision-making of Jrue Holiday.
Usually, the Sixers keep it close in the 1st half, but let their chances slip away as the game progresses. In this game, they were able to replicate their 1st half performance and the 4th quarter is where they really pulled away. They ended the 3rd and began the 4th quarter on a 13-5 run. The Sixers got their lead to as much as 14 and they finished strong which allowed them to come out with the 98-91 victory.
Keys to Victory:
1. Interior Defense
The Sixers are usually in a game where the paint dominance is one-sided. Tonight, they showed fight and tenacity down-low, starting with Spencer Hawes. He played like a 7-footer for once, with 16 rebounds and 7 blocks. As a team, the Sixers finished the game with a total of 14 blocks compared to the Pacers’ 3. The Sixers severely needed that boost that they received from Hawes, including this colossal rejection of Ian Mahinmi.
2. Ball Movement
Passing the ball around is something the Sixers must consistently do if they would like to keep winning. In the first half, the Sixers had 16 assists on 20 field goals. Feeding the ball to Spencer Hawes also created opportunities for other players, as he finished the game with 8 assists. Holiday finished with 12 assists and as a team, 28 of their 39 field goals came off of assists.
Jrue Holiday has become a great decision maker and is very efficient. He is beginning to figure out when and when not to take over a game. His shot selection has gotten better and that is how he is going to have to carry this team in the future. He shot 12-25 from the field and 2-3 from beyond the arc.
Player of the Game: Spencer Hawes (PHI)
Hawes was a man amongst boys tonight. This type of game is not expected from him but is much-needed. He must at minimum, keep up the work on the defensive side of the ball. He had a great night and finished with 18 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists, and 7 blocks.
Jrue Holiday also had 27 points, 12 assists, and 6 rebounds to pace the Sixers.