KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The 76ers look to get off to a great start while controlling their own destiny as much as possible.
A victory over the Indiana Pacers in Saturday’s NBA restart seeding-game opener for both teams would do just that.
The Eastern Conference’s fifth-seeded Pacers (39-26) take a 2-1 season-series advantage over the sixth-seeded Sixers (39-26) into the contest at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The 7 p.m. game inside the VISA Athletic Center will mark the squads’ final meeting until the playoffs.
By beating Philly, the Pacers would hold the tiebreaker and get the higher playoff seed if both teams complete their eight-game seeding schedules with the same record.
A Sixers’ victory would even the season series. In that instance, the tiebreaker would go to the team with the better conference record. The Sixers, at 26-16, hold the edge by being two games ahead of the Pacers (24-18).
“If you weigh the level of importance, I think the importance of just starting well is mostly on my mind,” coach Brett Brown said before Friday’s practice. “I think the accumulation of confidence to feel like we really have a chance to be good, that’s important.
“The point about tiebreakers and so on, that is true. But I think it’s a little bit bigger than that for me.”
The Sixers could go on a roll with a victory Saturday night because they have the second easiest schedule of the 22 teams in the restart. Their five opponents -- San Antonio Spurs, Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic, Portland Trail Blazers, and Phoenix Suns -- all have losing records. Expected victories in those games would give the Sixers momentum and confidence heading into their final two seeding games against the Toronto Raptors and Houston Rockets.
“That all has a chance to grow spirit,” Brown said. “I said enough about what I think the importance of that word is. I see [Saturday] night’s game in that line as much as anything.”
A lot has changed since the Sixers last faced Indiana on Jan. 13, a 101-95 victory by the Pacers.
Joel Embiid was sidelined in that game after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ligament in the ring finger of his left hand. The three-time All-Star center will return after being sidelined with right calf tightness in the last two scrimmages.
Back on Jan. 13, Victor Oladipo, Indiana’s two-time All-Star shooting guard, was sidelined while rehabbing the ruptured right quad tendon that was repaired a year ago. He returned on Jan. 29 and played in 13 regular-season games and all three of the Pacers’ scrimmages at Disney. The 27-year-old will be a game-time decision.
However, the team will be without All-Star post player Domantas Sabonis (left foot plantar fasciitis) and guard Jeremy Lamb (torn left anterior cruciate ligament).
Sabonis averaged 15.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists in three games against the Sixers this season.