Sixers Look For First Win, Take on Pacers Without Joel Embiid

The Sixers will take on Paul George and the struggling Indiana Pacers tonight in search of their first win.

The Sixers will take on Paul George and the struggling Indiana Pacers tonight in search of their first win | Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Sixers will take on Paul George and the struggling Indiana Pacers tonight in search of their first win. | Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

After a couple of near misses, and a couple of not-so-close blowouts, Brett Brown and the Philadelphia 76ers will travel to Indiana to take on the Pacers and look to pick up their first win of the season. They will do so without the services of Joel Embiid, who did not travel with the team as they look to ease Embiid back into the grind of the NBA after his 2.5-year layoff while recovering from a fractured navicular bone.

While the 76ers began their season with 5 of their first 6 games at the Wells Fargo center, they did so against relatively tough competition, with Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland, and Utah all likely to be in contention for playoff consideration in April.

While the Pacers, who finished 45-37 for 7th place in the Eastern Conference last season, could certainly rebound and contend for a spot as well, they have not started the 2016-17 season off strong. That goes beyond the Pacers 3-4 start, which includes losses to the Nets, Bulls, Bucks, and Hornets, but also to the infighting that looks to already be starting, with star Paul George saying there’s no trust among Pacers teammates.

With Indiana’s atrocious defensive play to start the season (28th in the NBA), this home-and-home with the Pacers (which continues at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night) is a great opportunity for the Sixers to pick up their first win of the season.

The Details:
What: Sixers (0-6) vs Pacers (3-4)
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
When: Wednesday, November 9th at 7 PM
Watch: Comcast SportsNet

Projected Starting Lineups:
Sixers: Sergio Rodriguez, Gerald Henderson, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jahlil Okafor
Pacers: Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis, Paul George, Thaddeus Young, Myles Turner

Injury Report:
Ben Simmons (out, fractured right foot), Nerlens Noel (out, knee), Jerryd Bayless (out, left wrist).

Joel Embiid did not travel with the team in what the team is describing as “load management”.

About The Opponent:
After winning 45 games and qualifying for the playoffs, Larry Bird and the Indiana Pacers decided to make sweeping changes. They fired long time head coach Frank Vogel, replacing him with Nate McMillian. They changed up point guards, trading away George Hill and replacing him with Jeff Teague. Finally, they added veteran Thaddeus Young to start alongside second-year center Myles Turner in the frontcourt.

The changes have not gone well so far. Hill was a criminially underrated fixture for the Pacers and is averaging 20.4 points per game for Utah so far this season. The Pacers have relied on second year big man Myles Turner to be Robin to George’s Batman, and while Turner has responded by averaging 16.4 points per game 61.8 percent true shooting percentage, that’s a lot to ask for a young big man. With Vogel and Hill elsewhere, the once-vaunted Pacers defense has been getting gashed, with a bad combination of struggling to defend the three-point line while also getting crushed on the boards.

Still, the Sixers will have their hands full with George, who is scoring 20.4 points per game while shooting 46.2 percent from the field, and 47.6 percent on his 6.0 three-point attempts per game. George remains one of the more potent two-way wing players in the game, and the combination of George and Turner can make life difficult for opponents, even if the team isn’t yet cohesive enough to take advantage of it.

What To Look For:
Joel Embiid will not be available tonight in what is essentially rest for the young big man, who still has his minutes restricted after spending the last 2.5 years working his way back from an injured navicular bone in his right foot.

That leaves Jahlil Okafor and Richaun Holmes to split time at the center position. The last time this situation presented itself — the road game against Charlotte on the tail end of a back-to-back — Holmes got the start at center. Since that time Holmes has somewhat fallen out of the rotation, receiving just 5 minutes of playing time over the past two games, while Okafor has had his minutes restriction bumped up to 24. Regardless, both should see substantial minutes, which is good news, especially for Holmes.

This should be a game where the Sixers perimeter shooters can continue to get on track. Sergio Rodriguez should have more success against Teague than he would have against Hill, and Gerald Henderson on Monta Ellis could present some favorable offensive matchups for the Sixers as well. It will be Robert Covington who could be the most important, though. Not only because Covington finally got on track against Utah, connecting on 3 of 4 three-point attempts after starting off the season shooting just 5-30 from deep, but also because he is one of the few Sixers perimeter defenders who has a chance to make George work for his points offensively.

Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.