How to Watch Pacers' Game With 76ers on Sunday; Gametime, TV, Point Spread
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The Indiana Pacers completed a two-game series with the Charlotte Hornets that featured both teams splitting in the win column. Now, they will look to defend homecourt against the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers.
The 76ers decided to shake up their roster configuration during the first offseason under their new President of Basketball Operations, Daryl Morey. Philadelphia made it an emphasis to surround Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris with spot-up threats like Seth Curry and Danny Green.
The newfound spacing within the half-court has helped Embiid to take the leap into being an MVP-caliber talent. He's now averaging 28.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. Given the 76ers' 14-6 record, Embiid would actually likely be the MVP if the season ended today.
Tobias Harris is having a career-year with averages of 20.1 points and 6.7 rebounds with great efficiency. Meanwhile, Ben Simmons is averaging an incredible 16.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.9 assists, and 1.6 assists while being one of the NBA's most versatile defenders.
It won't be an easy challenge for the Pacers, but it could be a real opportunity for Indiana to send a message with a win. They haven't found success recently against winning teams but could begin a needed turnaround in that regard if they come out victorious against Philadelphia.
Here are the particulars on Sunday night's game:
- Who: Indiana Pacers (11-8) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (14-6)
- When: 7 p.m. ET, Sunday, Jan. 31.
- Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Ind.
- Latest Line: The Philadelphia 76ers are a 2-point favorite over the Indiana Pacers, according to the DraftKings.com website as of 12 p.m. ET on Sunday.
- Standings: Indiana is in second place in the Eastern Conference's Central Division, with the same record as the Milwaukee Bucks but without the tiebreaker. Philadelphia leads both the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division.
- Series history: Philadelphia leads the all-time series, 101-82.
- Last meeting: The iconic 53-point performance by TJ Warren in the NBA Bubble on Aug. 1, 2020, helped lead the Pacers back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to a 127-121 win over the 76ers.
- Projected 76ers starters: Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Danny Curry, Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid.
- Projected Pacers starters: Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, Justin Holiday, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner.
- TV: FOX Sports Indiana.
- Announcers: Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Jeremiah Johnson (sideline reporter/host)
- Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan - Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Eddie Gill (analyst), Pat Boylan (sideline reporter/host)
Here are three things to watch during the game
1. Myles Turner Guarding Joel Embiid
If the NBA season were to end today, the league MVP award would almost certainly go to Joel Embiid. That's how good he's been for the 76ers to start the season. Myles Turner would likely be the Defensive Player of the Year in that regard, too. So, we have an incredible matchup on our hands.
Embiid has been spectacular so far this season but has further elevated his production as of late. Over the 76ers' previous five games, he is leading the way with averages of 34.0 points and 10.5 rebounds while attempting 15.8 free throws per game.
Much of the damage Embiid has done to defenses have been in post-ups and mid-post isolation situations. These sequences account for a staggering combined 48.2% of his offensive possessions. The impact he's making is nothing short of incredible, too.
None of the 17 players in the NBA with at least 50 post-up possessions are producing more points per possession (PPP) than Embiid. He is generating a staggering 1.085 PPP while being by far the highest-volume post-up threat in the entire league. In fact, only Nikola Jokic and Andre Drummond also have over 100 post-ups to start the season while only seven other players have at least 75. Embiid has 141.
Embiid has been one of the most impactful isolation scorers in the NBA, too. He has an output of 1.214 PPP on 42 possessions -- ranking 8th in the league when stacked up with the other 42 players with at least 30 possessions of this play type.
It's probably going to take a team effort for any group to slow down Embiid. That's just the way it is with elite players. Indiana has tried sending two to the ball in the past but didn't have nearly the defensive creativity under Nate McMillan as they do under Nate Bjorkgren. It will be intriguing to see what Bjorkgren has up his sleeve from a strategy standpoint.
Basically, nobody has been able to handle Embiid in 1-on-1 situations, but Turner will have a chance to show what he can do. If he can get it done, it will be on his greatest list of achievements on his DPOY resume.
2. Domantas Sabonis Going Up Against Joel Embiid
The level of production the Pacers have received from Domantas Sabonis to start the season has been that of an undisputed All-Star. Now, he will have a chance to showcase his development against one of the NBA's best interior defenders in Joel Embiid.
Something that has carried over even with new head coach Doc Rivers for the 76ers has been their tendency to have Embiid guard interior oriented bigs while Tobias Harris checks the stretch big. Sabonis will have to take Embiid to task on the offensive end.
Due to Embiid's size and effectiveness down low, teams haven't even really attempted to post-up against him. He has only defended a total of three post-up possessions all season despite appearing in 16 games and a total of 506 minutes.
The 76ers have often forced the Pacers to turn Sabonis more into a jump shooter -- often leaving him wide open. For reference, he appeared in three games against Philadelphia last season and had 42.9% of his shot attempts come in the form of catch-and-shoot and converted at just a 33.3% clip from the field.
To put Sabonis' change in tendencies against the 76ers into perspective, he is attempting 73.5% of his shots from within less than 10 feet this season. His impact has been phenomenal -- converting at a 63.0% clip. Last season, only 51.4% of his shot attempts against Philadelphia were within less than 10 feet.
Much like Turner will have the chance to prove he's truly the level of defender that he thinks he is (as he put before the matchup), Sabonis will be able to stake his claim as one of the NBA's elite big men against Embiid. Succeeding inside the paint at a much higher frequency by embracing the challenge is needed at some point.
The Pacers will also need to involve Sabonis as they normally do in dribble handoffs (DHOs) and as a ball screener to attempt to pull Embiid further away from the paint. The recipients of DHOs and pick-and-roll ball-handlers will need to ready to execute.
3. Malcolm Brogdon's Offensive Production
If someone were to create the worst possible matchup for Malcolm Brogdon, it would feature a player with the intangibles of Ben Simmons. He stands at 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot wingspan, has a tremendous level of lateral quickness to stay in front of ball handlers, and has become great at dodging screens.
It won't be easy for any of the Pacers' players to get to the rim with Embiid patrolling the paint. Brogdon's under-the-rim finishing style could particularly struggle if he isn't getting to the rack for clean finishes.
For reference, among all 41 players in the NBA with at least 75 finished attempts around the basket within the half-court, Brogdon's efficiency ranks last by a country mile with an output of 0.85 PPP. In fact, there are only two other players with an output below 1 PPP and 14 players under the 1.2 PPP mark.
Simmons also has the foot speed to track Brogdon when he gets downhill along with the length to pressure the finish, too. So it won't just be Embiid that Brogdon has to worry about when he's trying to get to the rim from out in space.
Brogdon will need to be ready to convert on his pull-ups against slight windows of daylight to get his release off. Last season, 62.9% of his shot attempts against the 76ers came in the form of pull-ups and he struggled to execute -- converting at just a 31.8% clip from the field. Additionally, he struggled from within 10-feet by making just 45.5% of his attempts.
There's not going to be TJ Warren or Victor Oladipo on the court to take pressure away from Brogdon. He's going to be priority No. 1 for the 76ers' defense out on the perimeter and this will be a prime opportunity for him to solidify his All-Star campaign.