The Philadelphia 76ers threatened the Miami Heat as much as anyone has in the last month on March 13. But the Sixers didn’t have enough to hold on in the final minutes, which has been a common theme for them. Yet when they faced the Indiana Pacers on March 16, the Sixers managed to play 48 full minutes against that elite Eastern squad.
The Sixers held on to beat the East’s second best team by 98-91, 72 hours after giving in at the end to the East’s best team. Fortunately, the Pacers are not the Heat, although no one else in the NBA is. Unlike Miami, Indiana never got a 12-point lead at halftime over Philadelphia and couldn’t open any breathing room for three quarters.
Like they did against the Heat, the Sixers surged after halftime and then really got going in the fourth quarter. This time around, Philadelphia opened up a sizable lead in the fourth and Indiana had to play catch up the whole way through. After a 19-4 run to start the fourth, the Sixers were well on their way to finishing this upset off.
Philadelphia caught Indiana at the right time, since the Pacers suffered poor losses to the Heat and Los Angeles Lakers earlier this week. In addition, the Sixers were lucky to play at home, where they are now 19-17 to contrast with their 6-23 road record.
The Pacers had easily beaten the Sixers twice this season, just like the Heat did before they visited earlier in the week. Nevertheless, the third time was the charm for Philadelphia against Indiana, like it almost was against Miami.
The Sixers thought they could challenge the elite on a more consistent basis months ago, if not join them themselves. Unfortunately, this week’s strong performances against the best in the East came too late to save their season. But they were able to salvage one win out of it, even if it would have been sweeter to beat the Heat.
Facing Miami and Indiana in back-to-back games should have been crippling for a struggling team like Philadelphia. Instead, they might have been the strongest back-to-back games the Sixers played in months. Splitting them was certainly their biggest accomplishment in some time, especially since they could have easily gone 2-0.