By Harry Allison
TJ Warren blocked a go-ahead 3-pointer with 29 seconds left, and the Indiana Pacers scored the final seven points for a 101-95 victory over the visiting Sixers.
Indiana has now beaten the 76ers twice in 14 days and holds the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference standings, a half-game ahead of Philly.
And yet in a game Malcolm Brogdon finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and nine assists, and Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis both produced double-doubles, it was Warren’s energy, ability to get to the rim and a critical defensive play that proved the difference.
“I think we just locked in on the defensive end,” Turner said. “I think that was really the story of the night.”
It wasn’t anything like Indiana’s 115-97 rout on New Year’s Eve.
This time, just about everyone on both teams struggled through three dreadful quarters.
Warren and Ben Simmons were the exceptions.
While Simmons finished the first half 9 of 11 from the field and staked the 76ers to a 49-40 halftime lead, Warren made just enough shots to keep the Pacers close.
It looked like that might change when the 76ers ran out to a 63-52 lead midway through the third quarter.
But Turner led the Pacers back with a 15-4 spurt to tie the score.
Josh Richardson started to swing the game with a 17-point, fourth-quarter flurry that included two free throws to give the 76ers a 92-89 lead with 3:36 left. Instead, his 3 to make it 95-94 with 2:02 to go accounted for the only Philadelphia points the rest of the game.
Turner made two free throws with 1:14 to go to give Indiana the lead, Warren kept it intact by blocking Tobias Harris’ 3 and the Pacers closed it out at the free throw line.
Simmons had 24 points and 14 rebounds, while Richardson finished with 23 points as Philadelphia fell to 1-2 since losing Joel Embiid with an injured finger on his left hand.
“We just have to make more open looks,” Harris said. “I think, all around, we haven’t shot it well from 3 so we’ve got to stick with it. At the same time, we’ve make more of the shots we’re getting.”