What Are You Gonna Do? Pacers Hit Ton of Shots, Get Ton of Calls, Beat Sixers

What Are You Gonna Do? Pacers Hit Ton of Shots, Get Ton of Calls, Beat Sixers

Maybe you think the Sixers lost this game by a lot. Literally speaking I
suppose they did, since the 17-point margin of their 111-94 defeat
meets most conventional definitions of "a lot." But did the Pacers
actually outplay the Sixers considerably? I'm not convinced. They just
made more shots and got more calls. You could blame it on bad defense,
but only a small percentage of the made shots were off defensive
miscues, and a lot of the fouls seemed pretty damn questionable.
Meanwhile, the Sixers shot 53% from the field and 46% from deep,
assisted on 63% of their field goals, and only turned the ball over nine
times. How mad can you really get?

Perhaps more importantly,
the Sixers got good games from their now-proclaimed Backcourt of the
Future, whose progress individually and as teammates is probably as
important if not more so than the team's collective fate this regular
season. Jrue Holiday didn't have great ball-handling numbers, just four
assists with three turnovers, but was dynamite scoring the ball, making
seven of eight for 17 points. Jrue's assist numbers are inevitable going
to go down sharing ball-handling responsibilities with Evan and 'Dre in
the starting lineup, but as long as he's making shots and scoring
efficiently (and defending on the other end), he can remain a key part
of the team's future without posting gaudy passing numbers.

And
Evan Turner kept his streak of Villainy alive with maybe his best-ever
game shooting the ball (like a real two-guard!), hitting nine of
11—including a variety of baseline jumpers, fadeaways, even a
three-pointer!—for 21 points. Turner's rebounding fell off a little in
this one, only grabbing five total, but he added four assists, three
steals and two blocks, without a single turnover in 38 minutes. Even
with the good overall numbers, though, it was the shooting that really
impressed—he's in a groove now like we haven't seen all season, and for
maybe the first time since last year's playoffs, he actually looked like
a legit two-guard out there tonight. (By the way, Evan has now scored
over 20 points in three of the last four games, after doing so only four
times in the first 116 games of his career. Unbelievable with this
guy.)

If you really were gonna fault the Sixers for one thing tonight, it
would be their interior defense. Nice as it was to have Spencer Hawes
back on the court—and he was fine on offense, with six points and three
assists in less than 20 minutes—he didn't exactly help the team with
their rebounding woes, grabbing just two total as he, Nik Vucevic and
Elton Brand were brutalized on the offensive boards in the first half,
and the Pacers frontcourt got way too many layups and free throws. The
Sixers were ultimately out-rebounded 36-27, and only got ten free throws
to Indiana's 22—both problems for the team all season, and ones which
unlike in the last few games, Evan Turner wasn't able to help them out
with.

Still, I'm giving the Sixers a pass on this one. Sometimes you just face
a team that seems to make every shot—the nail-in-coffin back-to-back
threes by George Hill in the fourth were particularly ridiculous—and
playing good D just doesn't seem to be good enough. If the Sixers and
Pacers played a seven-game series—which they very well might in the
not-too-distant future—I'd imagine Philly and Indy would each have one
game this good, and the other five would be decided by single digits.
The teams are almost exactly equal in quality, and tonight's loss
doesn't do much to dissuade that notion for me.

The only reason this loss particularly hurts is because it might be the
first of three straight for the Sixers, as they now go on to face the
Bulls and Heat in succession this weekend. But we'll deal with those
games then, and in the meantime, it's hard to feel too bummed about a
loss where your two most promising young players shoot a combined 16-20.
The Extraterrestrial Invasion continues, and for tonight, that's good
enough.

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

MONTREAL -- Eric Fehr and Jake Guentzel scored in the second period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Defensemen Ian Cole and Olli Maatta also scored for Pittsburgh, which won its second game in a row after a three-game skid.

Sven Andrighetto scored for Montreal, which lost its second straight and has only two wins in its last six games. The Canadiens' offense remained in a rut coming off a 1-0 loss Monday in Detroit.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray was back in form after Monday's wild 8-7 win over Washington, making 19 saves. But Carey Price's woes continued as Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 26-20. Price allowed three or more goals for the eighth time in 10 games (see full recap).

Vanek, Nielsen lead Wings over Bruins
DETROIT -- Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen scored in a shootout, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a comeback 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

The Red Wings rallied from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits in the first period, and with 3:04 remaining in regulation, Gustav Nyquist scored to pull them into a tie.

In the shootout, Tuukka Rask and Petr Mrazek stopped the first shots they faced before Vanek scored for the Red Wings and Brad Marchand countered with a goal for the Bruins. Nielsen, who like Vanek joined the team last summer as a free agent, scored on the team's third attempt and Vatrano missed the net with a chance to extend the 1-on-1 duels.

The Bruins were dominant early before blowing a chance to keep Detroit at a distance in the Atlantic Division standings (see full recap).

Burns, Pavelski push Sharks past Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels scored in the San Jose Sharks' seventh win at Staples Center in their last eight trips, 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

Joe Thornton had two assists and Martin Jones made 22 saves for the defending Western Conference champion Sharks, who wrapped up their regular-season series against their biggest rivals with three victories in five games.

After Burns scored his 19th goal in the opening minutes, San Jose hung on through a scoreless third period to continue its recent domination in downtown Los Angeles, including three victories in last season's first-round playoff series.

Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik scored for the Kings, who ended a seven-game homestand with four defeats (see full recap).

McDavid scores in OT, Oilers edge Panthers
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Connor McDavid scored the winning goal in overtime as the Edmonton Oilers won their fourth game in a row, 4-3 over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.

McDavid, who also had two assists in the game, got a breakaway late in overtime and got the puck away with 2.6 seconds left. Florida's James Reimer made the glove save, but the puck was ruled to be across the line via video review.

Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu and Jordan Eberle also scored for the Oilers, who have their longest winning streak since December 2015.

Vincent Trocheck, Michael Sgarbossa and Greg McKegg had goals for the Panthers, who have lost two straight (see full recap).

Joel Embiid, Sixers prove plenty with benchmark win over Raptors

Joel Embiid, Sixers prove plenty with benchmark win over Raptors

BOX SCORE

The Sixers weren’t supposed to beat the Raptors, were they? This was going to be an “easy” game for the visiting team, which was coming to Philadelphia on a back-to-back that started in Brooklyn. The Raptors are a playoff team, and second in the Eastern Conference at that. Not to mention, they had defeated the Sixers in their last 14 meetings.

Maybe easy would have been the case the last time the two teams played back in mid-December. For the Sixers, though, things have changed since then and a 94-89 win over the Raptors on Wednesday proved this recent success is not fleeting (see Instant Replay).

“I don’t think it’s a fluke,” Joel Embiid said. “We’re competing. We’re winning games. We’re playing great defense. We finally found what we’ve been looking for.”

The Sixers had been missing clearly-defined roles and a defensive identity (see story). Now that Brett Brown has whittled down his roster to 10 players and laid out a starting five and second unit, the team has been gelling in those two aspects. The Sixers have won seven out of their last nine games, with the Raptors being the highest caliber of competition.

The Raptors entered the game averaging 111.5 points per game, first in the East and third in the NBA behind only the Warriors and Rockets. They had scored less than 100 points in just seven games this season. Additionally, the Raptors had been held to under 90 points by a single opponent: the Spurs. Not bad company to be in. 

Embiid led all players with 26 points (including 12 for 14 from the free throw line) to go with nine rebounds (see highlights). The Sixers staved off 25 points (11 for 21 from the field), six assists and three rebounds from DeMar DeRozan and 24 points (11 for 16 from the line), four rebounds, four assists and five steals from Kyle Lowry, who fouled out. The Raptors shot 25 percent from three and 65.2 percent at the free throw line.  

“We’re playing with a spirit, we’re playing with a defensive mindset,” Brown said. “There is a belief within each other amongst the team that is the best that it’s been since I’ve been here.”

The Sixers' winning stretch began against subpar teams, opponents who earlier in the season some would look at the schedule and say, the Sixers could probably take that one, as they tried to project a batch of victories. The Sixers turned those wins over the Nuggets, Timberwolves and Nets into momentum and carried it into a matchup against the Knicks.

Even though the Knicks are looking lost this season, they still have veteran offensive firepower that can take over a game against a struggling opponent. The Sixers made noise by beating them at the buzzer, then escalated their performance against the postseason-hungry Hornets and Bucks. 

The Raptors are different, though. There is no questioning their success and potential to make a deep playoff run … again. Nonetheless, the Sixers handled this well-seasoned opponent with composure and confidence down the stretch. 

They stayed together when DeRozan hit a jumper with 1:53 to play to give the Raptors their first lead since the second quarter. The Sixers responded to the one-point deficit with a 7-0 run to push the edge up to six points with 20.7 seconds to go.

“I think it says we’re for real. It shows our consistency that we’ve built throughout the year,” Nerlens Noel said. “We’re relentless. We have a young group of guys that know how to play the game and play it the right way and will come out there and compete against anybody in this league. I think the perception should be a whole different one now.”

The Sixers showed they can compete with top talent. Their wins aren't just coming from teams at the bottom of the standings. 

"That gives us a lot of confidence," Embiid said. "Coming into the game, we had a lot of confidence. Winning against the second-best team in the East is just amazing. We’re going to keep on working."