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Faced with a grueling 12-game stretch against opponents with winning records, the Philadelphia 76ers started with an impressive 120-96 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night.
It wasn’t just the score that impressed, but how Philadelphia was able to dismantle the Pacers elite defense by getting everyone involved. For a team that has struggled to play up to its potential, the Sixers needed to build momentum and chemistry to prove they could be a threat among the Eastern Conference.
With all the recent drama surrounding Philadelphia’s big three and their fit among Coach Brett Brown’s free-flowing offense, Thursday was the kind of showcase the 76ers needed in order to create more reason for optimism.
Despite laboring with back tightness, Joel Embiid led the way, finishing the night with 22 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 blocks. With Jimmy Butler (27 points, 8 assists) and Ben Simmons (11 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists) also a contributing factor in the win, Philadelphia finished with a combined 38 assists on 46 made field goals.
Struggling with defense and a lack of production off the bench, the reserves in Mike Muscala, Jonah Bolden, and Landry Shamet showed up to make a combined 7 of 10 three-pointers. Combine that with J.J. Redick’s 20 points on 6-of-9 three-pointers, and the Sixers finished with 52.9% shooting behind arc.
The only issue fans will take from this game was the fact that Brown let Embiid come back into the game with 4 minutes remaining and up by 17 points, despite clearly seeing he wasn’t 100% earlier. If Philadelphia wants to make a strong run in the postseason, then they need a healthy Embiid, who is far more valuable than home-court advantage.
Through February 12th, the Philadelphia 76ers will face the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets (twice), LA Lakers (twice), Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, Toronto Raptors, and Boston Celtics. A daunting gauntlet for any NBA team, but if Thursday’s performance is any indication, then it looks like the 76ers are figuring it out at the right time.
Featured Image: Andy Lyons, Getty Images