Positive: Defensive improvements
After giving up 50 points to Tyrese Maxey on Sunday, Indiana looked to improve their defensive shortcomings from Sunday going into Tuesday's rematch. It is no secret that the Pacers have struggled defensively, with their defense ranking among the league's worst despite their stellar offensive play.
This was fully on display on Sunday, where in addition to Maxey's 50-point explosion, the Pacers also gave up 37 points from Joel Embiid and 19 points from Tobias Harris on a night where the defensive attention only ramped up in the fourth quarter by which time it was too late. With that being said, the Pacers looked to improve their fortunes the second time around, with mixed results on the scoreboard.
Looking at the box score, Philly only saw big contributions from four players, as Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, De'Anthony Melton, and Tobias Harris were the only players to score above two points. Yes, you heard that right. Philly's four top leading scorers led the way with 118 points combined, while the rest of the team combined for only eight points among the seven of them that got playing time.
Regardless of the lopsided scoring spread, Indiana's main defensive impact was left on the possessions, as the Sixers committed 16 turnovers compared to the Pacers' 11, and the Pacers had seven steals on the night compared to the Sixers' five.
This defensive prowess was displayed in the fourth quarter, as nobody besides Harris, Embiid, Maxey, and Melton scored, and the Sixers committed four key turnovers. Embiid was called for an offensive foul down the stretch, which put the momentum firmly in the Pacers' hands, and they they used it to ride to victory.
While allowing four players to score over 20 points isn't ideal, it's excusable when those players are quite literally the only source of offense from that team, and the Pacers did a good job neutralizing Philly's other players on offense and bunking down on defense when the time came.