Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons Dominant as 76ers Beat Pacers

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistNovember 8, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 07:  Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers dribbles the ball against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on November 7, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Indiana Pacers, 100-94, on Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Joel Embiid (20 points and 10 rebounds) and Ben Simmons (16 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) led the way for the Sixers.

Victor Oladipo had 36 points for the Pacers in the losing effort.

       

Sixers Finally Prove They Can Compete With East Contenders

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 07:  Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers goes up to dunk the ball against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on November 7, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

While it was too early to panic about Philadelphia's 6-5 start to the season, a few concerning trends had emerged.

For starters, the 76ers had been 0-5 on the road this season. They also began the night 0-3 against the teams currently ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings.

Both of those trends came to an end Wednesday.

Entering the night, Philadelphia had lost its road games against the Boston Celtics, the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks by an average of 16.7 points. It was clear from tipoff that Wednesday would be a different story.

The Sixers jumped out to a 13-2 lead in the opening minutes, and they continued to compete as the Pacers narrowed the gap. While it didn't come easy, they got a confidence-booster against a fellow contender.

As long as the Sixers stay healthy, they should be able to shake off their sluggish start and make it to the postseason for the second consecutive year. However, just making it to the playoffs is no longer the goal. 

To make a deep run, the Sixers will have to figure out how to beat the Celtics, the Raptors, the Bucks and the Pacers no matter where the games are played. Boston knocked out Philadelphia in the second round last season in five games, going 3-0 at the TD Garden.

Philadelphia has defended its home court (6-0) early on this season, albeit against lesser competition. The Sixers' championship aspirations will come down to beating good teams on the road, and they took a big step forward in that regard Wednesday.

       

Philadelphia's Depth Strong Enough to Overcome 3-Point Woes

The 76ers entered the night ranked 22nd in the NBA in three-point percentage (33.9). While those struggles continued Wednesday, they proved they have enough talent to overcome one of their biggest issues.

Against Indiana, Philadelphia went 10-of-32 from beyond the arc. Dario Saric, who was shooting a miserable 23.2 percent from three-point range on the season, made four of his six attempts. All other Sixers players combined for only six triples, including a 0-for-7 performance by JJ Redick.

And yet, Philadelphia still managed to beat a good Indiana team on the road.

The Sixers have only one player shooting better than 39 percent from distance so far this season, with Robert Covington (42.2 percent) leading the pack. First-round pick Landry Shamet sits second at 38.3 percent. Meanwhile, two of the team's top perimeter shooters from last season, Redick (42 percent in 2017-18; 37.9 percent this season) and Saric (39.3 percent last season), have yet to find their groove.

Thus far, having Embiid and Simmons take over has helped the Sixers rack up wins.

With Saric (18 points against the Pacers), Covington (13), Shamet (12) and Redick (10) all contributing double-digit efforts, Philly had too much firepower for Indiana to overcome.

Sixers head coach Brett Brown has to hope Wednesday night's performance gets Saric going and that Shamet can continue his solid start to his career while others search for their shooting stroke. 

The Golden State Warriors are loaded with players who can hit three-pointers, so the Sixers must find a way to consistently drain triples to dethrone the defending champs.

Philadelphia has enough talent to make it to the playoffs without hitting three-pointers consistently. But come mid-April, Redick and Co. will need to be on the top of their game.

         

Pacers Starting Lineup Not Providing Oladipo Enough Help

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 7: Victor Oladipo #4 of the Indiana Pacers shoots the ball against the Philadelphia 76erson November 7, 2018 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by dow
Ron Hoskins/Getty Images

To make a serious run at the NBA Finals this season, the Pacers will need a total team effort. As good as Oladipo may be, he can't do it alone.

That much was clear Wednesday.

Indiana fell behind 13-2 in the opening minutes of the game, but Oladipo brought his team back, scoring 15 in the opening period. That momentum carried into the second quarter, as he finished the first half with 24 on 10-of-16 shooting. 

The rest of the Pacers' starters? A combined 3-of-13 for eight points.

Things didn't improve much in the second half, either. The rest of the starters combined for 26 points on 9-of-30 shooting, with Bojan Bogdanovic making a late run to finish with 13.

In other words, Oladipo outscored the Pacers' other four starters by 10.

That isn't a recipe for long-term success.

Backup forward Domantas Sabonis (16 points) provided Oladipo with some support, injecting some life into the arena with a posterization of Embiid in the third quarter:

However, Indiana didn't have enough help around Oladipo, who eventually cooled off.

Oladipo set a new season-high before the third quarter wrapped up, but as the 2018 All-Star went scoreless during the first half of the fourth quarter, the Sixers pulled away. 

Oladipo, who entered the night averaging 23.0 points, could work his way into the MVP conversation if he continues to keep up his current pace. But unless the reigning NBA Most Improved Player gets more help from his supporting cast, the Pacers are going to have a tough time making noise during the postseason.


 

What's Next

Both teams will be back in action on Friday night, with Philadelphia (7-5) hosting the Charlotte Hornets and Indiana (7-5) hitting the road for a game against the Miami Heat.

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