Securing a victory with defensive stops down the stretch instead of enduring a massive fourth-quarter meltdown is a nice first step.
“We really needed that game,” coach Tony DiLeo said.
The Sixers needed any kind of lift after a disastrous week that included losing in two of the most agonizing ways any team can lose. The big blow came hours before the game: Brand—their five-year, $80 million power forward—will have season-ending surgery on his right shoulder Monday.
“We have to rally around each other and go out there and pick up our play on both ends of the floor,” said guard Willie Green, who had 23 points.
More games like this one will help. All five starters reached double-digits in scoring by the fourth quarter and Philadelphia held off the pesky Pacers to avoid a third straight fourth-quarter collapse.
Miller had 13 points and 12 assists, while Iguodala had 20 points and 11 assists to help the Sixers snap a two-game losing streak.
“We can make it work, we just have to make it work,” Iguodala said. “It’s as simple as that.”
The Sixers wanted a strong showing on their seven-game homestand to throw them in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. They opened with a win, then lost in two of the most agonizing ways any team can lose. They missed their final 18 shots from the floor and coughed up a fourth-quarter lead in a loss against New Jersey. Then they led the entire fourth against the NBA-best Celtics until Ray Allen won it with a 3-pointer with five-tenths of a second left.
Philadelphia nearly blew it again against Indiana.
Dalembert, though, went up strong under the basket for a basket and Miller added a layup to make it a six-point game and give the Sixers some breathing room down the stretch. The often-erratic Dalembert abused Indiana down low and was only two rebounds shy of his career high.
The Pacers were miserable in coach Jim O’Brien’s 3-point happy offense. They missed a whopping 21 of 34 attempts—a brutal number considering two more makes would have given them the win.
Dunleavy led the Pacers with 21 points, and Danny Granger and Jarret Jack each scored 18 as Indiana dropped its third straight. Murphy had 15 points and 14 assists.
Granger, though, made only shot from the floor in the second half and said his nagging knee injury was a factor. He felt sore and said he might not play Friday against Orlando.
“We know that we need these games and if we keep losing, I know that I can’t be taking games off,” Granger said.
Dalembert was on from the opening tip. All the Sixers needed out of him with Brand around was for him to block shots and rebound. Now they really need Dalembert to score and he delivered a bruising 6-for-13 effort from the floor and 6-for-6 from the free-throw line.
“I think that (scoring) will be a big bonus for us,” DiLeo said.
Speights was scoreless in 7 minutes, but wasn’t really needed.
“We have guys that can come in and help us, but we have to play defense because that is what’s going to help us win games,” Green said.
Dalembert had 14 defensive rebounds—or as many as the other starting four combined. With Miller and Iguodala leading the way, the Sixers had 26 assists on 34 baskets.
Granger scored 11 points in only 1:05 to cap a stunning 21-2 run that put Indiana ahead by nine in the second quarter. The Sixers came right back at the end of the half with a 12-2 run to slice the deficit to 56-54 at the break.
The Sixers improved to 11-8 this season without Brand. … O’Brien was whistled for a technical foul in the fourth. … The 76ers are 15-10 since DiLeo replaced Maurice Cheeks. … The Sixers don’t play on the road again until Feb. 17 at Indiana. … The Sixers’ last game with three players recording double-doubles? Against Indiana on Nov. 14.