No one can argue that the 76ers don’t have great team chemistry.
Their togetherness is on display each game during the opposing team’s pregame introductions. That’s when Dwight Howard leads several of the Sixers in a dribble skit straight out of the AND1 Live Tour.
Guys are also always encouraging teammates and greeting with high fives when heading toward the bench. Monday’s 130-114 victory over the Indiana Pacers at the Wells Fargo Center was no different.
Yet, the thought is the Sixers will need to make at least one move before the March 25 trade deadline in order to contend for the NBA title. They could use an additional ballhandler, some frontcourt depth, and a perimeter closer.
Coach Doc Rivers realizes that team’s chemistry is a value.
“It’s something you work on, though,” he said. “I didn’t think it just happens. Chemistry is something you work on every day, you talk about every day. You sell the roles of each player. You give that player a lot of credit for playing his role. I mean, it’s not by accident.”
It’s also something that, once obtained, you usually don’t know why or how it stays. But it’s something teams definitely want to keep.
“That’s why trades are very tenuous and tough,” Rivers said. “I would say most of the best trades we all made in this league are the ones we haven’t made. ... Then we made some good ones where the talent outrises the chemistry.
“So I would say obviously at the deadline, that’s what we all will be thinking about.”
Mike Scott started in place of Tobias Harris. The power forward missed his second consecutive game with a bruised right knee. The hope is that he’ll be in Wednesday’s home contest against the Utah Jazz, the league’s best team. It’s the Sixers’ last game before the All-Star break.
Harris tried to play Monday, but the Sixers made the call to keep him out.
“We need him,” Rivers said. “Hopefully we can get him back next game.”
But he wasn’t needed on this night.
Joel Embiid finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists in three quarters of action. The big man made 10-of-17 shots and was a plus-22on this night.
There was a lot of intrigue in this matchup due to Embiid going up against Pacers center Myles Turner. Turner leads the league with 3.4 blocks per game.
“I have a lot of respect for him,” Embiid said. “I say it respectfully, but that’s a matchup that I’ve dominated since I got to the league. He’s a great defender. He leads the league in blocks. He should be up there when it comes to defensive player of the year.”
Embiid also wants to win that award. So he was determined to take advantage of this matchup.
Ben Simmons had 18 points, six rebounds, and two assists. Like Embiid and the Sixers’ other three starters, Danny Green, Seth Curry, and Scott, he sat out the fourth quarter.
Shake Milton had a game-high 26 points while making 3-of-5 three-pointers. Furkan Korkmaz added 19 points while making 6-of-13 threes.
“I just think the ball was hopping,” Milton said of the Sixers shooting 56.8% from the field. “Everybody was getting a feel for it. We played team basketball. Everybody was moving, and that’s what coach wants.
“As you can see, whenever that ball is moving like that we are hard to guard.”
Malcolm Brogdon led the Pacers with 20 points, while All-Star power forward Domantas Sabonis added 15 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists. Former Sixer T.J. McConnell had seven points, five rebounds, and five assists.
The victory improved the Sixers to 23-12 and gave them a 2-0 record against the Pacers (15-18).The squads will meet for the third and final time on May 11 in Indianapolis.
The Sixers also remain a half-game ahead of the the Brooklyn Nets atop the Eastern Conference standings. Meanwhile, the Indiana, riding a four-game skid, is ninth in the conference standings.
Philly broke the game open with a 19-6 run to take a commanding 63-44 lead with 4 minutes, 6 seconds left in the first half. The Sixers went into the locker room up, 72-55.
Philly came out flat in the second half, leading to a 6-0 run by the Pacers to pull within 12 points. That resulted in Rivers calling a timeout 1:10 into the third quarter.
The Sixers responded with a 15-0 run to take an 87-61 advantage with 5:56 left in the third.
“First of all, we had to get stops,” Rivers said. “I thought we did that, and then I loved how we spaced the floor. That’s why I was so upset the other night [in Saturday’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers]. I thought we had no spacing.
“And we tonight, we spaced the floor. We got to the paint. We made passes to each other.”
During the timeout before the second run, Rivers asked the players why they changed what they were doing. The first three possessions of the half were crowded, again.
Following the timeout, Embiid ran down the floor telling teammates, “Space, keep it wide.”
The Sixers also had solid ball movement.
The Sixers extended their lead to 31 points (101-70) on Scott’s three-pointer with 1:16 left in the third quarter.
For the game, the Sixers made 15 of 35 three-pointers (42.9%).
Indiana forward Doug McDermott lost a tooth in the third quarter when he and Simmons were on the floor battling for a loose ball, and he caught an elbow. McDermott went straight to the locker room and didn’t return.