Lorenzo Brown drives into Indiana big man Roy Hibbert in the Sixers' 106-98 loss to the Pacers on Saturday. (AP)
INDIANAPOLIS -- There is no doubt you give the Sixers an “A” for effort Saturday night, but Evan Turner would have also enjoyed hearing a few more whistles.
Turner wasn’t being a sore loser after the Sixers fell, 106-98, to the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers (see Instant Replay). He was just being pragmatic.
The Pacers, who have the stingiest defense in the NBA, are one of the most physical teams in the league, too, and yet for 48 minutes with the Sixers attempting an astronomical 102 field goals, Indiana was called for just 21 fouls with zero called against them in the third quarter.
“Roy Hibbert is a great defender but I don’t see a seven-footer getting attacked 25 times and only having two fouls,” Turner said.
The truth was Hibbert finished with three personal fouls.
“And for them to go an entire third quarter without a foul called is tough as well,” Turner said. “He is a great defender but that doesn’t make sense to me at all.”
The Sixers did go to the foul line for 32 free-throw attempts and made 24 of them. The 32 attempts were the most taken by a Pacers opponent this season. For Turner’s part at the charity stripe, he was 5 for 7. He penetrated the paint but too often encountered Indiana’s length, vertically or horizontally.
“Look at the length that they have and they have played together a lot,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said of the Pacers. “There is a trust factor that they have that they know what is going on behind their first line of defense. I think Roy (Hibbert) and David (West) with the shot-blocking they have, it encourages more aggressive play on the perimeter. We couldn’t convert some of those shots. Some of them were good looks, some of them we give them credit, but they are a hard team to beat on their home court.”
Turner did his part, scoring 21 points and grabbing a team-high 11 rebounds. But his rookie running mate, Michael Carter-Williams, made a conscious effort to take pressure off Turner, given that there was no Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young or Tony Wroten (see story).
The rookie made 11 of 21 shots for a career-high 29 points to go with six rebounds, three assists and seven steals.
“He definitely played well and took what the defense gave him,” Turner said of MCW. “He did a great job and played hard.”
Enough can’t be said about Carter-Williams' play. That he is competing at the highest level among his rookie peers is not up for debate. Saturday night, MCW saw an opportunity to show his teammates when you need a lift in the absence of others, he will provide it.
“I am just trying to work on it every single day,” Carter-Williams said of his leadership as a rookie. “I am trying to be the best leader I can. I am taking it one day at a time. I am learning from the veterans. When you are the point guard out there, you have to be a leader and the coach has a lot of confidence in me, so I have to bring that confidence out on the floor and give it to my teammates.”
Carter-Williams is first in scoring, rebounding, assists, minutes and steals in the 2013 draft class. His three-point percentage ranks second. He is reliable, poised and consistent.
“He looked around and saw there weren’t many people without Thaddeus and Spencer,” Brown said. “So you say who are you going to go to at the end of the game and that empowers him because he feels like he has to step up and make plays. I think there is an emerging leadership and an accountability and a responsibility aspect that I see slowly growing in him.”
The Sixers shot just 34 percent from the field and 16 percent from behind the arc. Shots didn’t fall but Brown’s young group kept attacking.
“We missed a lot of shots. We almost had 30 more shots then them,” Brown said. “I don’t remember seeing a game like that in a long time but we give them credit because at the end of the day, they closed out the game; they got a win and they are a very good team.”