Pacers and Sixers meet again, this time with a tournament win on the line
The Pacers play in Philadelphia for the second game of tournament play. The 76ers, under first-year head coach Nick Nurse, are off to the NBA's best start.
The Pacers handled their business in their first nine games, starting the season 6-3 as they brought back most of the core from last season and added free agents Bruce Brown and Obi Toppin to the fold.
Most impressively, no matter the level of opponent, was how they went 4-1 on a five-game homestand — including a win over the Bucks, which is a rarity over the last seven years. Damian Lillard sitting out that game only meant a larger dose of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who did whatever he wanted until fading over the game’s final five minutes.
Now the team is on the road for three games over a four-game stretch. After this two-game series in Philadelphia, the team’s schedule oddly includes four games between games after they had just played five home games in seven days.
On Sunday, the 76ers used a fourth-quarter surge (+10) to hold off the Pacers and continue their hot start. They improved to 8-1 with the 137-126 win behind massive games from guard Tyrese Maxey (50 points) and Joel Embiid (37 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists). The Pacers were outrebounded by 22 and yielded 30 second-chance points, which is unacceptable.
“They’re a team that’s playing at as high of level as anyone in the league right now,” head coach Rick Carlisle said before leaving for Philly. “They’re tied together, they have great coaching, they’ve got an MVP candidate, obviously, with Embiid. Maxey is an All-Star. So we’ve got our hands full. It will be a great test.”
The stakes are even higher for the second matchup in a row at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday. It’s Game 2 of the In-Season Tournament for both teams. They’re in East Group A and both are 1-0 in tournament play.
Maxey and Embiid will be a handful once again, although it’s notable that Embiid is listed as questionable and starter Nic Batum is out due to personal reasons. The Pacers have a clean injury report.