The Sixers kicked off a tough upcoming stretch with arguably their most impressive win of the season.

They took down the Pacers, 120-96, Thursday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Indiana has been one of the hottest teams in the league, winning nine of their last 11. The Sixers were able to capture a win in the first game of a brutal 12-game stretch.

Here are observations from the win.

• The Sixers have moved the ball extremely well over their last two games. After collecting 40 assists on 55 made field goals on their way to waxing the Timberwolves Tuesday, they recorded 38 assists on 46 field goals against the Pacers, a team that came in with the third-best defensive rating in the NBA. The Sixers have the look of a team that's starting to click offensively.

They also held Indiana, the second-best shooting team in the NBA at 48.3 percent, to just 40 percent.

• Brett Brown has said on more than one occasion he’d like Jimmy Butler to be more assertive. On Thursday, Butler certainly was. He abused Bojan Bogdanovich — who’s out there for his offense — every chance he got.

What stood out in the first half was Butler’s movement without the basketball. On more than one occasion he was able to make a sharp cut to the basket for an easy bucket.

Butler was his usual active self on the defensive end. What’s most impressive is his recovery speed when he tries to cheat for a steal or deny his man the ball. It’s part of what makes him elite on that end of the floor. 

He finished with 27 points on 10 of 17 from the field. He also had eight assists with zero turnovers. You could make the case this was his best game as a Sixer.

• Joel Embiid, who was a game-time decision with a back issue, was clearly in discomfort. He was noticeably grimacing on the floor and trying to stretch on the sideline. 

With that said, the All-Star center gutted it out on both ends of the floor. He recored his league-leading 38th double-double with 22 points and 13 rebounds. He came up just two assists shy of a triple-double and had three blocks. 

• Simmons has been phenomenal lately, but we didn’t see the same aggressive player he’s been since the calendar turned to 2019. Simmons has done an excellent job recently of being aggressive and looking for his shot early.

In this one he took just two shots in the first half. He seemed to fall back into the trend of getting into the paint without a plan which generally has led to turnovers. He committed five in the first half. Simmons is so much better when he goes to the rim looking to score first and pass second. His indecisiveness has hurt him. He did commit just one turnover in the second half and still finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

To Simmons’ credit, he didn’t let his early offensive struggles affect him on the other end. He was charged with guarding the dangerous Victor Oladipo and held the All-Star guard to just 15 points.

• Jonah Bolden has been a revelation off the Sixers’ bench. Sure, he only played 12 minutes tonight, but his impact on the defensive end has been huge. His length, athleticism, quick feet and ability to protect the rim have been a big addition off the bench. Bryan Colangelo’s tenure as Sixers GM didn’t go well, but he may have hit on this second-round pick.

• It’s amazing what Bolden’s emergence and Wilson Chandler’s reemergence (10 points) has done to improve the team’s bench and somewhat solidify the team’s rotation. Using Bolden as the backup five allows Mike Muscala (11 points) to play more four and Chandler to play more three. Both players seem more comfortable at those positions.

This team likely isn’t a finished product as we approach the Feb. 7 deadline, but it appears Brett Brown has finally found a rotation he feels comfortable with.


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