myles turner

Sixers a physical object on Pacers' playoff radar

Sixers a physical object on Pacers' playoff radar


If the Sixers face the Pacers in the first round of the playoffs, get ready for a physical battle. The Pacers will be doing just that.

Tuesday’s meeting in mid-March was a potential postseason preview with the Pacers (40-28) and Sixers (36-30) ranked third and sixth, respectively, in the Eastern Conference. 

The Pacers made a statement with their 101-98 win (see observations)

“We try to set examples early,” Lance Stephenson said. “We ain't no jokes. We're coming after you.” 

The Pacers have been keeping an eye on the Sixers as they fight to rise in the standings. The Sixers are chasing a coveted top-four seed to secure home-court advantage. The Pacers, who are 23-12 at home compared to 16-17 on the road, are in the same battle. 

“Most definitely, you've got to have your hard hat on when you play against these boys, especially here at home, because they're a physical team,” Al Jefferson said. “I know if we do get a chance to play them in the first [round], it's going to be a physical series.”

Both teams have turned heads this season. The Pacers looked more like a lottery team than a playoff contender after trading Paul George to the Thunder. That is, before Victor Oladipo kicked off his breakout season and the Pacers clicked far beyond expectations. 

The Sixers had the potential to make the playoffs, but battling for home court, that’s playing at a different level of basketball. 

“They're a young team that plays hard,” Myles Turner said. “I feel like they've used a lot of fuel over the past couple of years as not being like a relevant team to kind of fuel their play this year.”

The Pacers won the regular-season series, 2-1. The Sixers triumphed in their first meeting Nov. 3 in Philadelphia thanks to 31 points from JJ Redick and a triple-double from Ben Simmons. The Pacers spoiled Joel Embiid’s first career back-to-back set with a balanced team effort Feb. 3 in Indianapolis. Tuesday’s game came down to the wire as 21 turnovers stifled the Sixers in a chippy matchup (see story)

The Pacers have had enough of a sample size to know what to anticipate in a postseason series. Jefferson noted the balance of rising young talent and experienced veterans. Former Sixer Thaddeus Young pointed out specifically the impact of Simmons’ size mismatch and passing abilities as well as Embiid’s versatility and floor spacing. 

“They're just a resilient team. They fight each and every game and they continue to play hard,” Young said. “That's what makes them tough. They've done a very, very good job of putting the team together. Brett Brown is a damn good coach.”

With only four games separating the third seed from the eighth in the Eastern Conference, it is far too soon to tell where the Sixers will end up in the standings. The Pacers are using Tuesday's win as a learning experience in case they are matched up.

"They always play physical," Stephenson said. "You've just got to stay poised and play your game. But they're a great team. I like how they play together. So we just pulled it out tonight." 

Sixers' home mystique wears off in latest test

Sixers' home mystique wears off in latest test


There were playoff implications on the line between the Sixers and Pacers — and it showed.

The Sixers (36-30) lost, 101-98, to the Pacers (40-28) in one of their more intense matchups of the season. Tensions ran high as technical fouls were called, whistles were contested, and one player left the court injured. 

The Sixers entered the night only two games behind the Pacers in the standings. If the playoffs had begun Tuesday, the Sixers and Pacers would have been matched up in a 3-6 series. The Sixers could have closed the gap with a win that could have impacted the fight for home-court advantage. 

• The Pacers snapped the Sixers' impressive 13-game win streak at the Wells Fargo Center. They had not lost in Philadelphia since Dec. 21, 2017, against the Raptors. The arena was quiet as fans filed out. 

• Joel Embiid worked on his highlight reel, throwing down monster dunks. He led all players with a 29-point, 12-rebound double-double. He attempted (and missed) a game-tying three with six seconds left. 

• The Sixers didn’t do themselves any favors with 12 first-half turnovers. They committed a total of 21 in the game, giving up 29 points. Embiid accounted for eight of the errors. The Pacers, meanwhile, only committed 10 as a team. 

• The Sixers were prepared for Lance Stephenson (11 points, four rebounds, three assists) to be a spark plug for the second unit. 

“Lance coming off a bench is lightning in a bottle possibly,” Brett Brown said. 

They should have expected him to be feisty, too. That’s been his M.O. his entire career. Stephenson wasn’t shy to mix things up with the Sixers, including drawing a tech on Embiid. 

• The Pacers pulled off the win in spite of an off night from All-Star guard Victor Oladipo. He shot 4 for 21 from the field and scored only 11 points. 

• Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis suffered a left ankle sprain when Embiid was pushed by Trevor Booker under the basket and then landed on his ankle. Sabonis was helped off the court by his teammates, who were visibly bothered by how the injury occurred. 

• Brent Celek, Brian Westbrook and Freddie Mitchell were at the game sitting courtside near actor Michael B. Jordan. 

Reports: Pacers the latest team pursuing Jahlil Okafor

Reports: Pacers the latest team pursuing Jahlil Okafor

Another team has emerged in Jahlil Okafor trade talks: the Indiana Pacers.

The Pacers are pursuing Okafor in an attempt to add help for Paul George, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, Jeff Goodman and Chris Haynes.

Indiana would make some sense for Okafor because of their style of play. The Pacers rank 25th in the NBA in fastbreak points per game. They're 25th in speed/distance traveled on offense. (The Sixers are first.) 

And Indiana is also in the top-third of the league in post touches and paint touches per game. 

Al Jefferson, a plodding post player Okafor is often compared to, averages 8.5 points for the Pacers this season and has played in every game.

What might the Pacers be willing to part with?

Thaddeus Young would be a solid return, but it's hard to see the Pacers doing that because it wouldn't make them a better team.

C.J. Miles? Probably not. The guy's an elite three-point shooter.

Forget about Myles Turner, one of the best young bigs in the NBA. 

A trade that might make sense for both teams would be Monta Ellis and a 2017 first-round pick for Okafor. (Before you continue reading, just know I'm not advocating for such a deal, just bringing up the possibility.)

Ellis has fallen out of favor in Indiana, playing six fewer minutes per game than he did the last two years. And as a 31-year-old, undersized two-guard who's long struggled from three-point range, he's not the most efficient player. He's also owed $23 million the next two seasons.

The Sixers could use additional scoring, but could do better than Ellis in free agency. This theoretical trade would really be about the first-round pick.

If the season ended today, the Pacers (29-28) would get the 18th overall pick. In that regard, the pick coming back wouldn't be much different than what they could have received from New Orleans before the DeMarcus Cousins trade.

The Sixers seemed unwilling to take on the contracts of Omer Asik or Alexis Ajinca in a trade with New Orleans because, even though they have salary cap flexibility, they don't want to limit their payroll for multiple future seasons. The same would likely be true with Ellis, even though he'd fill more of a need.

Okafor for Miles would be a good trade for the Sixers. So would Okafor for Young. But again, neither deal would make Indiana better in the short term, so it's probably a pipe dream.

The trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m.