Pacers-76ers Preview


While their offensive game has been clicking, the Philadelphia 76ers are enjoying their best start in 11 seasons behind a stifling defensive display.

The Indiana Pacers have also experienced plenty of early season success by clamping down on their opponents.

Points could be at a premium as the Pacers visit a 76ers team seeking a fifth consecutive victory for the first time in almost two years Monday night.

Off to its best start since winning its first 10 games in 2000-01, Philadelphia (5-2) ranks near the top of the league with 100.9 points per contest. The 76ers, however, have been even more impressive defending their end of the court, where they're surrendering a league-low average of 85.6 points.

Philadelphia's defensive prowess was on full display during Saturday's 97-62 rout of Toronto. The Raptors' point total was the lowest in the 15-year history of the Wells Fargo Center and the second-lowest by an opponent since the start of the 1985-86 season.

"It's all about playing defense. We know we can score. It's all about how we react and how we respond on defense," forward Elton Brand told the team's official website.

The 76ers, who haven't won five in a row since Jan. 31-Feb. 9, 2010, have outscored opponents by an average of 23.5 points during their run.

Keeping things going, though, likely won't be easy with a Pacers team allowing an average of 89.3 points - among the top five in the NBA - coming to town.

On the offense end, meanwhile, Indiana's frontcourt could prove difficult to slow down if center Spencer Hawes can't go.

Hawes, posting 12.6 points and a 76ers-best 10.6 boards per game, played only two minutes after halftime Saturday because of a strained back. He is uncertain to play in this one.

"We've got Indiana coming in, who plays power basketball with (Roy) Hibbert, David West and (Tyler) Hansbrough - big strong team, so we're hoping that he'll be back," coach Doug Collins said.

The Pacers (6-2) are coming off a one-sided victory of their own, defeating Charlotte 99-77 on Saturday. Indiana limited the Bobcats to just 32.6 shooting - the lowest mark by an opponent in more than two years.

"It says a lot about our team because it was a grind-it-out game against a veteran team," forward Danny Granger said. "We grinded them out, we put our defense out there and played to the best of our ability. Those are the kind of games you have to win.

"I think we've got a mark on our back now. We're not going to be able to sneak up on too many people anymore. They realize that we are a good team, and we're here to stay. It makes it all the more important for us to come to play."

Granger, scoring a team-best 14.9 points per game despite shooting a woeful 30.7 percent, is one of seven players on the roster averaging double figures.

"We've got eight guys, maybe nine that could probably start on other NBA teams," he said. "That's a lot of depth. I'd like to say we have more depth than most teams."

Indiana, which split four meetings with Philadelphia last season, has taken seven of 10 road matchups in this series - including a 111-103 victory Jan. 11 behind 27 points from Granger.