The Philadelphia 76ers look for their third straight win overall and 11th in a row at home when they host the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.
The Sixers defeated the New Orleans Pelicans, 120-111, on Monday behind 42 points and 11 rebounds from Joel Embiid, despite the center being questionable with a sore lower back. James Harden added 27 points and eight assists for the surging Sixers.
However, Embiid was ruled out for Wednesday’s game, this time with left foot soreness.
Tyrese Maxey also provided a spark with 12 points in just his second game back from a fractured left foot. He had been sidelined for nearly six weeks.
“I just really appreciate the fans, and you know they gave me an extra boost,” Maxey said. “The boost doesn’t help the ball go through the net, but the boost does help your energy and you’re flying around to help your teammates try to get some stops and different things like that.”
When Maxey is fully healthy, the Sixers are a much more dangerous team capable of making a deep postseason run.
There were flashes of greatness against the Pelicans, but the Sixers realize they must remain patient.
“He’s just out of sync,” head coach Doc Rivers said of Maxey. “You know it’s slowly gonna come. You know a lot of it I like. I loved a couple of drives to the basket. We keep telling him early on think about getting your fingernails on the backboard. That means you’re attacking. That means you’re playing with speed, and he started doing that.
“He got frustrated a couple of times because he got there and there was a no call, but when he starts doing that, I think the rest of the game comes to him.”
After a 113-93 setback to the Pelicans on Dec. 26, the Pacers responded by wining four straight over the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Clippers and Toronto Raptors.
The Pacers ousted the Raptors, 122-114, on Monday.
Rookie Bennedict Mathurin led the way with 21 points while Buddy Hield added 19. Indiana’s bench dominated Toronto with a massive 54-7 edge.
Backup point guard T.J. McConnell, who began his career with the Sixers, scored 15 points off the bench to help key the second unit.
“T.J. McConnell is a once-in-a-decade type player,” Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said. “You just don’t find guys like that who just have that boundless energy, who have that indomitable spirit and who can lift the entire building with one defining loose-ball play. He does it every night.”
Jalen Smith also contributed 11 points and 11 rebounds, seven offensive, in 17 minutes off the bench. Smith had been a starter earlier in the season and has since made the adjustment Carlisle was looking for.
“I’m pretty much just trying to play hard,” Smith said. “I know my skill set. The team knows my skill set. So just going and trying to do my job as best I can. Try to rebound everything that comes off the board, try to make every shot I put up and defend. In the second unit, there’s no time to get a rhythm. You gotta go from the get-go. It’s just play with that force, play with that energy and do what I can do.”
–Field Level Media