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INDIANAPOLIS – With their point guard playing his first game of 2020, Malcolm Brogdon’s return saw plenty of poise from the Pacers in closing out a key victory.
Down by 11 in the third quarter, Indiana came back for a 101-95 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night inside of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“We just hung in there,” Nate McMillan said of the comeback win. “It was obvious that our guys who came back tonight didn’t have a rhythm, and that first group didn’t have a rhythm and really struggled for three quarters. I thought in that third quarter, they started to get a little rhythm, started to make some shots and find their way. I thought it was good. I thought this was a good win in the sense that we didn’t play well, and we were able to stay with it.”
The Pacers scored just 40 points in the opening half and were down 9 at intermission.
But the Pacers got back in the game doing something they haven’t done much at all this year—outscoring the opponent from behind the arc and the foul line.
With Indiana scoring 22 more points in those spots than the 76ers, the Pacers could withstand a struggling night in defending the paint.
Brogdon, who had missed 8 of the previous 9 games, led the Pacers with 21 points (5-of-15 shooting), 7 rebounds and 9 assists.
As Indiana outscored the 76ers 12-3 to finish the game, it was Brogdon knocking down some huge perimeter shots.
“That’s the leader,” Nate McMillan said of Brogdon’s return. “That’s our point guard. It was obvious that he had been off for a while and didn’t have his rhythm, his timing. And he just stuck with it, continued to talk to the team about staying with it…he’s the guy who establishes how we want to play on both ends of the floor.”
With the win, the Pacers are now 2-1 on the year against the 76ers. The two teams will meet one final time in March, in Philadelphia.
Indiana (25-15) is now a half game ahead of Philly (25-16) and moved into the 5th spot of the Eastern Conference with the mid-way point of the season coming Wednesday.
Three Things Learned
-Malcolm Brogdon Returns: With his back issues and strep throat finally calmed down enough for him to play, Malcolm Brogdon made his 2020 debut on Monday. After a little rust early, Brogdon filled the stat sheet for 21 points (5-of-15 shooting), 7 rebounds and 9 assists. It was Brogdon hitting 2 huge jumpers late to give the lead back to Indiana. What does Brogdon mean to the Pacers? Not only was he doing that offensively, but Nate McMillan had Brogdon guarding Ben Simmons on the other end of the floor. It was fitting that with the return of Brogdon, the Pacers showed some tremendous poise down the stretch.
-Bench Changes Flow: It was a sluggish first half on the offensive end of the floor for both teams. The Pacers were down by as many as 11 in the third quarter, before things began to turn. With Nate McMillan turning to his bench, it was that group providing the spark. T.J. McConnell did it again to his former team, and he had help from the Holiday brothers and Doug McDermott. Justin Holiday hit 4 three pointers and was again a guy McMillan turned to late in helping the Pacers cap this victory. Unlike previous years, the Pacers have trust in letting guys No. 7, 8 or 9 finish out a game.
-Important Win For Homecourt: Monday’s victory over the 76ers gave Indiana a 2-1 series lead, with one more matchup remaining in March. It might not matter much come April, but the Pacers could be fighting for a home playoff seed, like they were late last season. Considering the difficulty teams have had in winning on the home floors of the top teams in the East, homecourt come playoff time takes on even added weight this year. Monday’s win flipped the Pacers (No. 5) and 76ers (No. 6) in the standings. Currently, the Pacers are just a .5 game back of No. 4 Toronto. This race will certainly go down to the final weeks/days of the season. Even with Victor Oladipo and Joel Embiid sidelined, Monday was a key victory for Indiana when looking at the big picture of this season.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-at Timberwolves (Wednesday)
-at Nuggets 1/19 (Sunday)
-at Jazz 1/20 (Monday)
-at Suns 1/22 (Wednesday)