Joel Embiid played like an MVP candidate Friday night, posting 40 points and a career-high 21 rebounds. But his teammates didn’t do him many favors in a 113-101 loss to the Pacers.
The Sixers lost their second straight game without Jimmy Butler, who remains sidelined with a strained groin.
Embiid became the first Sixer with a 30-point, 20-rebound performance since Charles Barkley on Dec. 7, 1990.
With the loss, the Sixers fall to 19-11, a half game behind the Pacers in the standings.
• Embiid struck the perfect balance between post and perimeter offense in the first half. When Brett Brown didn’t call a play for him, Embiid had the right sense for when to space the floor and when to occupy the low post. He drew fouls inside, knocked down a three-pointer and ran hard to the rim on a pick-and-roll with T.J. McConnell at the end of the first quarter, tipping in McConnell’s miss with a second left to give the Sixers a 34-24 lead.
When Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis managed to stay in front of Embiid, he used his rip-through move to earn a trip to the line. But those two didn’t have much success hanging with Embiid.
The Pacers did a better job on Embiid after halftime, denying him post position and forcing someone else to beat them.
• Furkan Korkmaz, who scored a career-high 18 points in his last two games, started again and drew a difficult defensive assignment in Bogdan Bogdanovic. The Pacers targeted that matchup, with Bogdanovic overpowering Korkmaz for a couple easy baskets in the first quarter and scoring on him several times during an Indiana run in the third.
It wasn’t a great night on the offensive end either for Korkmaz; he shot 2 for 10.
• With Embiid out early in the second period, the Pacers went on a 10-0 run to tie the game. Mike Muscala, back in the lineup after missing Wednesday’s loss to the Nets with an upper respiratory infection, had a poor game as Embiid’s backup. Muscala wasn’t decisive offensively, which led to bad spacing for the Sixers on several occasions, wasn’t knocking down open jumpers, and didn’t come close to providing Embiid’s level of rim protection.
• JJ Redick started hot after shooting just 28.9 percent over his past three games. Redick made his first three shots, scoring seven of the Sixers’ first 12 points.
Following a rough mid-game stretch, Redick also made two three-pointers early in the fourth. He had 22 points on 8 for 19 shooting.
• The combination of McConnell and Wilson Chandler defended Pacers star Victor Oladipo well, holding him to 14 points on 5 for 16 shooting.
Oladipo was back in the lineup for his second game after missing over three weeks with right knee soreness, and at times he didn’t appear fully engaged. That said, McConnell and Chandler did a solid job tailing Oladipo around screens and staying in front of him on pick-and-rolls and isolations.
• Before the game, Brett Brown said “there was a legitimate chance [Butler] could have played tonight.” Brown said the Sixers hope Butler will be ready to return soon, possibly on Sunday against the Cavaliers, but the team is taking a cautious approach.
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