Sixers vs Pacers: Can Philly keep up with one of the hottest teams in the NBA?

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Sixers
Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, center, goes up to shoot against New Orleans Pelicans’ Jonas Valanciunas, front left, and Zion Williamson, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Winning games against the teams you’ll be seeing the most in the season are critical. As the Sixers look to pad their playoff chances, the Indiana Pacers look to catch up as they stand just two games behind Philadelphia in the standings.

Sixers/Pacers Game Info

When: Wednesday, January 4th, 2022

Tipoff: 7 PM EST

Where: Wells Fargo Center | Philadelphia, PA

How to watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia

Sixers/Pacers betting odds

Spread: Sixers -6.5 | Pacers +6.5
Total: O/U 232
Moneyline: Sixers -255 | Pacers +215

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Sixers/Pacers Game Preview

When the Sixers had their only match against the Pacers way back towards the very beginning of the season, nobody thought that Indiana would be one of the hottest, fastest, most dynamically athletic teams in the NBA. But now with a few months of tape out there, Philadelphia will look to slow things down in their own building. But it won’t be easy.

Tyrese Haliburton currently leads the NBA in assists per game, translating to the Pacers playing a diverse game in which everyone can get involved at a moment’s notice and stretch out the defense for open shots.

The defensive formula for Philadelphia has been pretty simple: have PJ Tucker faceguard the best perimeter player and let Embiid block shots. Expect two adjustments this time around from Doc Rivers: the Sixers to play a little more zone than they’re used to, and create traps on Haliburton to prevent him from using his athleticism to make plays to his primary shooters in Buddy Hield, Aaron Nesmith, and Andrew Nembhard. We may also see Embiid defend the perimeter more than usual to guard Myles Turner who can space the floor and shoot three as well as any center in the Association.

With a few games under his belt following his return from injury, Tyrese Maxey and his speed will be the biggest x-factor in keeping up with Indiana’s pace (see what I did there?). While Maxey is talented enough of a handler and shooter to beat opponents in isolation, he should more likely be used in movement through driving to the basket or using quick dribbles to draw attention and kick it out to other shooters.

The Sixers will look to play to the Pacers’ style, but that may not be a bad thing since they have the pieces to keep up. What cannot happen is a back-and-forth game where the Sixers take 20 seconds to get two points and the Pacers come right down and get a three-point shot in just 10. The key to the Sixers’ game is beating Indiana at their own.

Games like this against division opponents with similar records are critical down the stretch for determining the playoff bracket. A win for the Sixers could be worth more than just a W come April.

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AP Photo/Chris Szagola

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