Giving Up 53 Points to T.J. Warren – Observations from Pacers 127, Sixers 121

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

No Malcolm Brogdon, no Domantas Sabonis, and no problem for the Indiana Pacers, who overcame a double-digit fourth quarter deficit to en route to a six-point win without two of their best players.

Welcome back!

After four months sans basketball, we emerged from pandemic hibernation to watch T.J. Warren drop 53 points on the hapless Sixers, who picked up right where they left off, providing the Delaware Valley with a back-breaking late collapse on a night where Joel Embiid had 41 points and 21 rebounds.

They conceded an appalling 46 points in the fourth quarter and defensively looked like a sieve in that period, which is a shame, honestly, because they had a nice 32-20 third quarter and seemed to be grinding down Indy after a rocky first half.

Perhaps the most aggravating thing was that Nate McMillan’s team really did not have anybody capable of handling the aforementioned Embiid, who finished +21 in the loss. The Pacers started Myles Turner, who picked up a foul within one minute and then picked up two more at the midway point of the second. Indiana had offensive success going small, but settled with a patchwork variety of double teams to help JaKarr Sampson attempt to manage Embiid defensively.

That was really the story of the game, the Sixers just unable to defensively deal with Indy’s small lineups and a red-hot T.J. Warren.

“Give him credit, he was hot,” said Tobias Harris postgame. “Too many times we were guarding him like he wasn’t on fire. We gave him too much space, just not enough credit for his ability to score, and he punished us tonight, from the beginning of the game and on. We definitely could have done a better job as a whole, for sure. He did make some tough shots, so I’ll give him credit.”

Here’s what Brett Brown had to say about guarding Warren:

I think the space we gave him was too generous. I think when you have Matisse and Ben, who are the primary defensive assignments, you normally feel comfortable that those two can tag team a player, and he was great tonight. Maybe we could have double-teamed him sooner then we tried to. They have tremendous three-point shooters behind the double team, so you try to pick your poison. I thought in the first quarter, first part of the game, he got out and was sensational, and the physicality as it relates to the whole game, wasn’t at the level where we needed it to be.

Yeah, and look – Simmons and Thybulle could have been better, for sure, and in hindsight, the starting trio of Victor Oladipo and the Holiday brothers only combined to go 4-14 from the deep, so I think they could have doubled more, and if Justin or Aaron Holiday beats you, then so be it. You can live with that. What you can’t live with is letting the red-hot dude remain red-hot and just believing that he’s eventually going to cool off.

Look at this shot chart:

Warren was so hot it’s like the planets Mercury and Venus collided and then crashed into the sun, and then he emerged with Phoenix wings holding a basketball. Credit where it’s due; he was hitting everything. That ridiculous downtown three-pointer at the end of the game proved it.

Turnovers, again

21 turnovers for the Sixers Saturday night, leading to 26 Pacer points.

Some of the passing was just incredibly casual and lazy, and a pair of offensive fouls (one a questionable call on Alec Burks), actually kicked off Indy’s big fourth quarter run.

Believe it or not, Philly actually improved their turnover number drastically this year, down to 14.2 per game when the season was halted, which was a top-10 NBA number.

Here’s proof:

They haven’t finished a campaign in the top ten since Doug Collins was in town.

I asked Brown about this after the game, not only the disappointment of coughing the ball up 21 times, but the fact that they had remedied this long-standing issue and had it under control back in March, before the season was postponed:

It is (disappointing). When you cut to the chase, T.J. Warren had an amazing game and we threw the ball away too much. We scored enough points. If you look at it, we have 32 and 34 points in the third and fourth period, for the most part our defense should hold up.

I think the turnovers, the pounding we took after we turned it over, with transition stuff and three-balls and getting to the rim, that was lethal. To your question, we hope to claw that back like we did and made significant improvement. We started out the game with 14 first-half turnovers and ended with 21, so we have seven in the second half, so maybe one-less would be acceptable, but the bottom-line cumulative number is not.

Embiid and Simmons had four turnovers each. Josh Richardson and Shake Milton had more combined turnovers in this game (6) than total points (4).

Pointing fingers

Did you see Embiid and Milton bitching at each other after the first quarter? Of course you did, it was all over TV and social media.

But if you’re living under a rock, I got you:

These interactions happen all the time, and typically they’re just surface-level blow-ups, but the pointed finger from Embiid seemed like a little bit… more. I dunno.

The genesis of the dispute was a wonky inbound from a few minutes prior, where they didn’t seem to be on the same page, barking at each other after a pick and roll in which Milton got tripped up and left Embiid in drop coverage trying to defend two guys at once. That led to a turnover and three-pointer for Indy:

Afterward, Embiid downplayed the incident, saying “it’s basketball, everybody makes mistakes and it happens, we gotta communicate better.” There was a bit more to the digitally garbled answer that pretty much just reiterated that point. Milton was not on the postgame Zoom call, though Brown explained that the three of them had a discussion about pick and roll defense and “what direction the screen was coming,” which confirms that Embiid wasn’t happy with a blown read in the above video clip.

“Those two will move on quickly, they’re good friends,” said Brown of the dust-up.

For what it’s worth, Raul Neto came on to start the second quarter, while Shake sat on the bench. Milton picked up another foul early in the third quarter and went right back to the bench. Just not his night, not at all. He finished with 0 points on 0-1 shooting.

Jim Lynam’s beard

I love this look for Jim Lynam. Kind of a mix between Abraham Lincoln and Khabib Nurmagomedov:

On Twitter Saturday night, a user told me that “more media members should dress weird,” which I agree with. The chinstrap/Fighting Irish look is definitely weird, but I give Lynam a lot of credit for being himself and not adhering to the fashion directives of corny consultants and other TV suits. Jim is 78 years old and at this point in his life can do whatever the fuck he wants!

Other notes:

  • The teams knelt for the national anthem and locked arms. Show of solidarity for BLM and the social justice movement sweeping the country.
  • Furkan Korkmaz was the first man off the bench, coming in for Shake Milton. Didn’t think that would be the case. He played 14 minutes and was 0-4 from the field.
  • Didn’t need to hear from Josh Harris in the first quarter. Also appreciated the Al Horford turnover and Indy 17-0 run that took place right after that.
  • HOWEVER – Horford had a really nice third quarter stretch, with 7 points and 4 rebounds, which helped the Sixers stretch the lead (he still finished -26 because the +/- with Embiid off the floor is crazy).
  • The 1st quarter Josh Richardson point guard minutes were pretty poor. With Milton in the mix now, you shouldn’t have to have Richardson run point at all, but it was a bad back court night overall.
  • T.J. McConnell was a pain in the ass all night long. Couple of baskets, couple of steals, putting guys off their game, aka the usual. That third quarter steal on Embiid on the casual rebound was prototypical T.J. stuff.
  • We don’t like to blame the refs at Crossing Broad, but when Indy began their run, Alec Burks was whistled for a questionable offensive foul, then the zebras missed a Warren travel at the other end.
  • Raul Neto getting a lot of minutes with Shake struggling is understandable, but he shouldn’t have been on the court down the stretch. He just doesn’t give you enough defensively.
  • It really doesn’t matter if the Sixers win or lose these games, which I explained in a column written last week.
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