Hibbert and Pacers beat Sixers in opener
INDIANAPOLIS - The 76ers were unable to duplicate the unthinkable. They weren't able to pull off a thrilling upset for the second straight season opener because they couldn't stop Roy Hibbert. The Indiana Pacers escaped with a 103-91 victory Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
INDIANAPOLIS - The 76ers were unable to duplicate the unthinkable.
They weren't able to pull off a thrilling upset for the second straight season opener because they couldn't stop Roy Hibbert. The Indiana Pacers escaped with a 103-91 victory Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The 7-foot-2, 275-pound center finished with game highs of 22 points and seven blocked shots to go with eight rebounds for the shorthanded Pacers.
But the Sixers had their chances in a game with nine lead changes and five ties in the first three quarters. Last season, they began by upsetting the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat. No one - not even the Sixers' front office - expected to beat the Heat.
And even though Indiana was undermanned, the Sixers weren't expected to contend with the Pacers on Wednesday night.
That's because they started a lineup with three undrafted veterans in shooting guard Chris Johnson, swingman Hollis Thompson and center Henry Sims. And the lone returning player on their roster who started in last season's opener did not play.
Second-year point guard Michael Carter-Williams is out while he rehabilitates from right shoulder surgery.
Coach Brett Brown kept experimenting by throwing different lineups together.
"I have no idea how it's going to play out," Brown said. "I really don't. You ended up spinning the wings around and ended up playing [point guards] Alexey [Shved] and Tony [Wroten] together."
Then the Sixers went to a small lineup, with rookie Nerlens Noel moving from power forward to center.
"We tried a bunch of different things," Brown said.
Tony Wroten, Johnson, and reserves Shved and Brandon Davies kept the Sixers competitive for a while.
Shved scored 12 of his 18 points in the third quarter. He made all three of his three-pointers in the period. Wroten finished with 22 points, a game-high seven assists, three steals, and a turnover. Davies and Johnson added 12 points apiece.
Noel added six points, 10 rebounds, and three blocked shots in his first game.
But on this night, the Pacers looked different from the team that reached the last two Eastern Conference finals.
Gone is shooting guard Lance Stephenson, who signed a free-agent deal with the Charlotte Hornets in the offseason. All-star swingman Paul George is expected to miss the season with a fractured right tibia and fibula.
Power forward David West missed the first of three games with a sprained right ankle. Point guard George Hill was sidelined with a bruised left knee, and his backup, C.J. Watson, was on the shelf with a bruised right foot.
As a result, Hibbert was the lone returning starter from last season to play in the game.
"We are definitely going to always come out and play hard," said Noel, whose team didn't back down against the Pacers. "That's the number one thing and making sure defense is the number one thing for us."
Things got a little testy on a play involving reserve power forward Malcolm Thomas.
He and Hibbert had to be separated late in the second quarter. The altercation occurred after Thomas shoved Hibbert in back as the big man tried to post up on the block. After falling to the ground, Hibbert charged Thomas, but the players were separated. Thomas was called for a flagrant foul and Hibbert received a technical.
"I thought there were two times where the game was going south," Brown said. "To their credit, they kept crawling back and made it respectable."
The Sixers wore a No. 11 patch on their jerseys in honor of the late Caldwell Jones. The former Sixer died after a heart attack on Sept. 21 in Stockbridge, Ga. He was 64.