Big Shot Bob Covington returned from injury with 8 points and 5 rebounds.
By Martha Sullivan
There are plenty of reasons the Sixers are winless this season, but one play during the Indiana Pacers’ 112-85 victory on Wednesday night at the Wells is a poster child.
Late in the second quarter, the 76ers broke a timeout huddle and did not realize that six players had walked onto the floor. That embarrassing moment did not result in one of the team’s several turnovers, but it did earn a technical foul. Not like the Pacers needed any free points.
Paul George scored 34 points (to go with eight rebounds, five assists and four steals), continuing the greatest offensive stretch of his six-year career. George has scored at least 26 points through eighth straight games.
“I’m definitely playing with confidence right now,” George said.
The starting shooting guard for the night, C.J. Miles, shined as his sidekick and finished with 20 points. The duo was so effective that at one point in the third quarter, George and Miles combined to outscore the 76ers 46-45.
Philly finished with 31 turnovers compared to 35 field goals, so Indiana easily improved to 7-5 and prolonged the 76ers’ anguish in an 0-12 start.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel went as far as changing the starting lineup to play big. Temple alum Lavoy Allen got the nod to match up against the 76ers’ front line of rookie center Jahlil Okafor and power forward Nerlens Noel.
Sixers coach Brett Brown had already announced his plan to sit Noel in favor of a small lineup to reflect how he thought Indiana would play. But after the maneuvering, Brown blinked first and switched course, reverting to his regular big lineup. The change to familiarity did not help as the normally relentless rebounding Noel remained silent under the boards (3 for the night) and Okafor, the 76ers’ leading scorer who averages over 19 points per game, scored just 14.
Before the game, Pacers center Ian Mahinmi studied Okafor’s tendencies — his spin move, his penchant to hold the ball and go over his left shoulder — and made it his mission to limit the rookie.
“I take pride in my defense,” Mahinmi said. “From the start, my mindset was to be aggressive on him and make him put the ball on the floor. … I just wanted to make him feel uncomfortable from the start.”
Through the second quarter, Indiana turned to the bench, but when the 76ers opened with four straight baskets in the paint, the lead diminished to just one point. Again, Vogel did not take this stretch lightly and began subbing back in starters, beginning with Monta Ellis to replace rookie point guard Joe Young, at the 9:03 mark.
With the full starting unit back on the floor with less than 5 minutes remaining in the quarter, the Pacers made the decisive separating run.