Tonight is arguably the biggest game of the Sixers' season-high eight-game homestand.
So far they're 4-1, but games with the Pacers, Bobcats and Clippers remain. This next matchup with Indiana isn't just the biggest because it's the next one, but because the Sixers have a chance to keep the momentum surging and grab what would be a season-high fourth-straight win. That would likely mean a five-game winning streak since Charlotte is in town Saturday. And then, who knows what a hot team could do with a Clippers team reeling without the services of Chris Paul Monday?
A 7-1 homestand isn't out of the question, but it all hinges on this one tonight against a Pacers team that has a monster frontcourt with David West (17.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg) and Roy Hibbert (8.3 rpg, 2.6 bpg). Oh, and you can't forget the All-Star and leading scorer Paul George (17.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.8 spg) who has made sure this team hasn't skipped a beat with Danny Granger sidelined.
But the basic problem tonight is the glass. As in, wax on, wax off. The Pacers clean said glass better than anyone in the league with the best rebounding margin going at plus-4.6, while the Sixers rank 25th at minus-2.8. With leading rebounder Thad Young out with a left hamstring injury, Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen and Arnett Moultrie will need to pick up the slack inside. After three straight subpar games, now would be a nice time for Evan Turner to put up his first double-double since he had 18 points and 12 rebounds against the Spurs seven games ago.
But here's why Wednesday is not a lost cause: Because they had to play a makeup game Monday against the Bulls, tonight's game for the Pacers represents the only time a team has to play back-to-back-to-back games all season. Of course the Pacers have won four straight, including the last three over the Heat, Bulls and Hawks. Not shoddy competition at all. But those games came at home. Indiana has lost three straight and seven of nine on the road. This is a game the Sixers have to have, plain and simple. And while the Pacers are playing their best ball of the season, it's one that is nearly mandatory for the team currently on the outside looking in at the playoffs.