The 76ers’ unblemished streak at home remains intact.
Thanks to three steals in the final 13.9 seconds by Ben Simmons, they defeated the Indiana Pacers, 119-116, Saturday night. The Sixers (14-6) are 9-0 at the Wells Fargo Center and snapped the five-game winning streak of the Pacers (12-7).
“I love it,” Simmons said. “I love being able to get steals and make guys turn the ball over. I have a sense of pride in that. It gives us energy in an aspect of it.”
On this night, it enabled the Sixers to win. That and the team’s balanced attack.
Joel Embiid finished with game highs of 32 points and 11 rebounds a day after Sixers coach Brett Brown said he didn’t know the All-Star center’s status.
Simmons also added 15 points and one block and game highs of 13 assists and four steals. The Sixers’ other starters on this night -- Tobias Harris (22 points, 14 in the fourth quarter), Al Horford (15), and Furkan Korkmaz (12) – also scored in double digits.
T.J Warren paced the Pacers with 29 points, while Malcolm Brogdon added 28.
But this game was a thriller that wasn’t decided until Simmons stole the ball on the final possession.
Embiid hit a pair of foul shots to give the Sixers a 113-111 lead with 1 minute, 54 seconds left. But Warren was fouled while attempting a three-pointer with 41.4 seconds left. He went to foul line and made all three to give the Pacers a 114-113 lead.
After both teams turned the ball over on ensuing possessions, Harris’ dunk off a steal and pass from Simmons, put the Sixers up, 115-114, with 9.9 seconds left.
Simmons followed that up with a steal with 7.9 seconds remaining. Harris was fouled 2.8 seconds later. He made a pair of foul shot to put the Sixers up three. But Brogdon responded with a pair of foul shots to close the gap to one point (117-116) with 3.8 seconds left.
Embiid, however, answered with a pair of foul shots with 2.8 seconds remaining to extend the Sixers’ cushion to three points. Simmons clinched the game by stealing Jeremy Lamb’s long inbound pass with on the game’s final possession.
“I was going to steal it. That’s the one thing," Simmons said of being asked what he saw on his final two steals.
There was a thought that Embiid might get Saturday night off to rest. However, he logged 33:16 in his second game on back-to-back nights. Embiid had game highs of 27 points and 17 rebounds in 35:27 of court time in Friday’s victory. He has now played in both games of the Sixers’ last two back-to-back situations.
“I’m getting better every game,” Embiid said when asked how important is it for him play in both ends of back-to-backs. “The season is about getting better every single game, ramping up, getting ready for the playoffs.”
That’s been his approach since the season began.
Horford returned to action after missing Friday’s 101-95 road victory over the New York Knicks due to rest. Shooting guard Josh Richardson missed his second consecutive game with right hamstring tightness. Reserve center Kyle O’Quinn was active after missing three games with a left calf strain.
The Sixers were also without Jonah Bolden, Shake Milton, and Marial Shayok. The three players are on assignment to the team’s NBA G-League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats.
The game was a homecoming for former Sixers T.J. McConnell, who signed a free-agent deal with the Pacers in July. This marked his first game against his former team. He received a framed Sixers jersey at his locker.
He also received a standing ovation when the Sixers displayed a video tribute with 6:48 left in the first quarter. McConnell then embraced Sixers coach Brett Brown when he first entered the game with 2:59 left in the quarter. He entered to a loud applause from the sellout crowd.
McConnell finished with six points, three assists, and two rebounds in 11:16.