Sixers snag first road win of the season, defeating Pacers
The Sixers pull out a close one at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 100-94, to move to 1-5 away from home.
INDIANAPOLIS — The 76ers broke their 2018 road jinx and a losing streak that went back more than 4½ years.
Wednesday night's 100-94 victory over the Indiana Pacers marked the Sixers' first road win in six tries this season. It also marked their first victory at Banker Life Fieldhouse since April 17, 2013.
The results were unexpected for the undermanned squad, coming off an embarrassing 25-point road loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday.
How did they do it?
"We just had fun," Ben Simmons said. "Honestly, just had fun."
The point guard said the players had been overthinking things and putting too much pressure on themselves.
"Played the game I know how to play," he added.
It's hard imagine anyone having more fun than Dario Saric.
The power forward broke out of his shooting slump to score 18 points, making four of six three-pointers. He came into the game shooting just 23.2 percent on three-pointers and 34 percent from the field.
Saric displayed a lot of emotion after hitting two huge threes in the third quarter.
"It's a hard question, you know, what is different?" he said. "I try every game with the same attitude, the same mindset. Sometimes, [it goes in]. Sometimes, it does not. I just hope I continue to play good."
Joel Embiid had 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Simmons added 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists while playing several positions, including center. Robert Covington (13 points), Landry Shamet (12), and JJ Redick (10) were the Sixers' other double-figure scorers.
Coming in, playing on the road was a recurring nightmare. They lost their first five road games to the Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, and Nets.
Meanwhile, Indiana had been a house of horrors for the Sixers (7-5). They had lost eight straight games here before Wednesday night.
The win, however, might serve as a confidence boost for a team that will embark on a three-game road trip following Friday's home game against the Charlotte Hornets. They'll play the Grizzlies in Memphis on Saturday before facing the Miami Heat on Monday. The Sixers will conclude the road trip on Wednesday night against the Orlando Magic.
Covington played after being listed as questionable Wednesday morning with lower-back soreness. Wilson Chandler finished with 2 points and 5 rebounds in 15:22 of action in his second game of the season. The reserve small forward missed the first nine games of the season with a strained left hamstring. He made his debut in Saturday's home game against the Pistons and sat out Sunday's road game at Brooklyn.
Victor Oladipo had a season-high 36 points for Indiana.
The Sixers jumped on the Pacers early, making six of their first seven shots to take a 13-2 advantage with 8 minutes, 30 seconds left in the first quarter. They went on to extend their cushion to 15 points (19-4) after Simmons' dunk at the 5:55 mark.
The Pacers got back into the game and trailed by six, 29-23, after one quarter. They were able to come back thanks to Oladipo, who scored 15 of his points in the quarter.
Indiana (7-5) opened the second quarter on an 13-4 run to take a 36-33 lead after Domantas Sabonis' turnaround jumper with 7:16 left in the half.
The teams were tied at 50 at halftime. Saric and Simmons combined to score 10 of the Sixers' first 11 points of the second half. Simmons' foul shot with 7:08 left in quarter gave Philly a 61-56 advantage.
The Sixers went on to extend their lead to 78-70 after Covington's three-pointer with 54 seconds left in the quarter. And they were up 17 (92-75) following Saric's fourth three-pointer, with 7:32 remaining in the game.
The Pacers got as close as 6 points late in the game.
The Sixers hope this is a victory they can build on.
Redick wants the Sixers to keep in mind that this is the beginning of the season. He pointed out that the team didn't hit its stride until the later part of last season.
"We are working through some things right now," Redick said. "We'll be fine."
However, last season's turnaround had a lot to do with signing Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova to free-agent deals in February. The team went 20-3 down the stretch, winning their final 16 regular-season games after Ilyasova rejoined the squad.
One has to assume that the Sixers are eyeing similar additions this season via a trade or signing player after they clear waivers.