The Philadelphia 76ers and the Indiana Pacers are two of the Eastern Conference’s finest teams. The talent is on full display every night with players like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons for the Sixers and Victor Oladipo with he Pacers. However, they are not without their flaws.
Philly has not rocketed out to the start that many of their fans expected. At 6-5 the Sixers sit in the middle of the Eastern Conference glut of teams, though they will climb up. Right?
Indiana came out of nowhere last year to nearly clock LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers right out of the playoffs. Oladipo is showing he was no fluke in winning Most Improved Player. They are a deep, well-rounded team but can they hang with some these other squads full of stars?
If you are looking for where this game will be decided, look no further than the glass. The Pacers are not a strong rebounding team, ranking 28th in the league in total boards per game and 28th in offensive boards per game. Philly, meanwhile, is third in the NBA in total rebounds and 15th on the offensive glass.
Turnovers will be another key to the outcome of this game. Philadelphia is careless with the basketball averaging more than 16 turnovers per game, putting them at 27th in the NBA. The disciplined Pacers are ninth in the league in turnovers and have the sixth-best defensive rating. That could prove to be too much for the Sixers to handle, especially on the road.
Simmons and Embiid themselves account for more than six turnovers per game combined. Last game against Brooklyn, a blowout loss, Philly turned the ball over a staggering 28 times.
Perhaps the most dramatic stat is that Philadelphia is 0-5 so far this year on the road. Bankers Life Fieldhouse is a hard place to play in already, with some of the league’s most raucous fans. Add in the atmosphere of prime time and the Sixers’ woes away from home and this game could turn just as much mental as it is physical.
What To Watch: Ben Simmons In The Paint
We all know Ben Simmons avoids taking jump shots. This has been well-documented. But this tendency could be problematic against the Pacers. Indiana has the best interior defense in the NBA, giving up 39.9 points per game in the paint. 73.4 percent of Simmons’ points come from the paint. If he is stifled inside, Simmons will become less multi-dimensional. Unlike Embiid, who can shoot and be effective outside of the paint, Simmons has extremely limited range.
Featured GameOn Picks
Featured Pick #1: Will there be a dunk in the first quarter? (Yes)
Given the star power in Simmons, Embiid, and Oladipo a dunk in the first quarter sure seems plausible. The 76ers have a bottom-10 defense in the paint, so the Pacers may get more dunking opportunities early on. And with how fast Oladipo flys around the court, all it takes is a full head of steam to get to the rim.
Featured Pick #2: Who will win the game? (Pacers by 1-10 points)
Indiana at home and, given the Sixers road woes, are favored to win. I would agree with that, though it likely will not be by more than 10 points. Philly will stick around and has the talent to make it close. In the end, the more disciplined Pacers should prevail in front of the home crowd.
Featured Pick #3: Will there be a missed free throw in the first half? (Yes)
The Pacers are only shooting a hair over 70 percent from the free throw line and shot 66 percent in their last game against the Houston Rockets. That ended up costing Indiana the game. Given that, it seems likely someone will miss a free throw. The Pacers are not a tremendous 3-point shooting team, so they will be trying to get to the rim as much as possible and in turn should get fouled.
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