INDIANAPOLIS - For most of four quarters, the 76ers - minus their best player - played better than expected against the bigger and more physical Indiana Pacers, who like to strangle their opponents' offense and pound them relentlessly on the boards with their size and physicality.
But the NBA is a game where the best players often decide outcomes, and with Jrue Holiday not on the floor, Indiana's players made the big shots when they had to in the waning moments, sending the Sixers to a 95-85 loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday night.
"What ends up happening is eventually it wears you down," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "It's like that old heavyweight fight where that guy keeps hitting you in the gut, and in the 12th round you put your hands down cause your stomach hurts and they hit you in the head."
With Holiday sitting this one out with a sprained left ankle that has the Sixers listing his status as day-to-day, that body blow was delivered by the Pacers' Paul George. George scored 17 of his game-high 28 points in the second half, and none were bigger than the three-pointer he hit with 2 minutes, 1 second left in the game that gave the Pacers an 89-83 lead.
"I think that might have been the dagger," said reserve forward Spencer Hawes, who scored 18 points. "We had a shot in the paint, and we missed it. At the other end, he stepped up and made a big basket. They had guys who stepped up and made big baskets for them."
With Holiday out of the lineup, the Sixers were forced to switch Evan Turner over to point guard and insert Nick Young in the starting lineup along with Kwame Brown in an effort to counter the Pacers' superior size.
Turner had a good game at the point, notching his seventh double-double of the season (22 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists). The Sixers also got 12 points and seven rebounds from Thaddeus Young, and Dorell Wright came off the bench to give them nine points and nine rebounds.
With George leading the way, the Pacers placed four players in double-figures scoring. Center Roy Hibbert had 19 points and 14 rebounds, George Hill had 15 points and 10 assists, and David West had 14 points and six rebounds for the Pacers, who outrebounded the Sixers by 48-36 overall and by 23-12 in the second half.
In the second half, the Pacers outscored the Sixers by 53-41. They also shot the ball better in the second half (56 percent to 46 percent).
"I thought we had to step it up in the second half," said George, who scored 14 points in the third quarter. "I think we did that collectively."