By Tommy Matthews
Joel Embiid scored 42 points, James Harden added 20 assists, 14 points and nine rebounds, and the Sixers broke open a close game to beat the Indiana Pacers 147-143.
The win upped the Sixers record to 42-22, just two games behind the cratering Celtics for second place in the East.
“When you have a guy like Joel and a guy like James, it’s hard to stop them,” Pacers guard T.J. McConnell, a former Sixers, said.
Embiid went 11 of 16 from the field, made all 19 free-throw attempts and posted his 11th 40-point game this season. The 76ers shot 58.5%, had six players in double figures and three with 20 or more points — Tyrese Maxey scored 24 and Jalen McDaniels had 20.
The Pacers shot 58.9% with seven players in double figures — led by Tyrese Haliburton with 40 points and 16 assists — in just their second home game since Feb. 16. Jordan Nwora added 16 points.
But one two-minute lapse was all Philadelphia needed.
“It was an offensive game,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “But at the same time someone had to make a defensive stand and we did that enough to win the game.”
With Philadelphia shooting 62.5% overall and from 3-point range through the first half and the Pacers sitting at 61.1% from the field over the same span, nobody could take control.
Neither team led by more than six through the first three quarters. Early in the fourth, Shake Milton and De’Anthony Melton made consecutive baskets to give the 76ers a 122-118 lead. Danuel House Jr. followed with a 3-pointer, and Milton closed out the 10-0 run with another 3 to make it 128-118 with 7:49 to play.
Indiana closed within 141-137 with 52.1 seconds to go but couldn’t get any closer.
“When they’re clicking like that, they’re a hard team to beat,” Haliburton said. “The game came down to who could get the most stops in a row. Usually, it’s three in a row. Tonight, it was more like two in a row.”