Preview: Pacers at 76ers
Joel Embiid is playing like an MVP candidate again with Jimmy Butler out of the lineup, but the Philadelphia 76ers are missing their closer. The 76ers hope to have Butler back from a groin injury when they host the Indiana Pacers on Friday.
Butler, who was injured in Monday’s win over Detroit and is considered day-to-day, sat out Wednesday and watched Philadelphia send the Brooklyn Nets to the free-throw line 43 times in a 127-124 setback. “I think it’s just communication on our end,” point guard Ben Simmons told reporters of the team’s defensive effort against Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who knocked down 13 free throws en route to a career-high 39 points. “I think we just need to communicate more (when playing) that team. It’s the same thing every time we play them.” The Pacers are familiar with playing without a star but got Victor Oladipo (knee) back from an 11-game absence on Wednesday and fit him in seamlessly while cruising to a 113-97 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, pushing their winning streak to five straight. “I thought he was perfect,” Indiana coach Nate McMillan told reporters of Oladipo. “You know, when you’ve been off for a long time like that, you focus on the defensive end of the floor … you get your wind that way offensively and just allow the game to come to you. He’s been watching us for the last couple of weeks and I thought he did a good job of moving the ball and getting guys involved.”
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, FS Indiana, NBCS Philadelphia
ABOUT THE PACERS (18-10): Indiana is allowing an average of 95 points during its winning streak and limited Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo to 12 points on Wednesday. “It was a team effort, but we did talk about (power forward Thaddeus Young) doing a good job of keeping Antetokounmpo in front of him and keeping him off the boards,” McMillan told reporters. “With Thad doing such a good job of containing him, our defense didn’t have to collapse and give them open 3’s from the perimeter. That’s where is starts for us, it’s got to be a team effort … tonight, our guys were connected on the defensive end of the floor.” Young finished with a team-high 25 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and four assists in the victory.
ABOUT THE 76ERS (19-10): Philadelphia was also missing reserve power forward Mike Muscala (illness) on Wednesday, and the absence of the two key rotation pieces was noted by the rest of the team. “It’s hard,” Simmons told reporters. “I mean, you get used to a guy being there. Then two guys are out that you are used to having in there, which means other guys have to step up and fill that role, come in and play defense, rebounding.” Embiid recorded his 25th double-double with 33 points and 17 rebounds but attempted only three shots in the second half.
1. 76ers SG Furkan Korkmaz scored 18 points in each of the last two games, raising his season average to 5.8 points.
2. Indiana C Myles Turner is averaging 24.5 points over the last two games.
3. Philadelphia took the first meeting 100-94 at Indiana on Nov. 7 as Simmons and Embiid each recorded a double-double.