Pacers must avoid digging early hole against 76ers

The Indiana Pacers will play the second game of a back-to-back Saturday night. So will the Philadelphia 76ers — and, for the first time in his career, All-Star center Joel Embiid will as well.

“I’m an NBA player and I feel like I’ve been ready, but the team had other plans,” Embiid told ESPN after the host Sixers (25-24) beat Miami 103-97 Friday night. “… I’m excited about it. I’m glad I get the opportunity. I feel great. My body feels great.”

The 7-foot Embiid, in his second season, will be an All-Star starter and is averaging 23.8 points and 11.0 rebounds.

The Sixers were up 26 points after three quarters before Miami made a huge fourth-quarter run.

“Nobody was worried about it, we knew we had to take care of the ball and play our game,” said Embiid, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds.

While the Sixers held on, Indiana (29-24) was digging a huge hole at Charlotte. The Pacers came back from an 18-point first-half deficit to make the game tight, but ended up losing 133-126.

That snapped a three-game winning streak for the Pacers, including a 105-96 victory over visiting Charlotte on Monday.

The Hornets scored a team-record 49 points in the first quarter Friday and led by as many as 18 points in the first half. It also was the highest-scoring quarter for any NBA team this season.

The Pacers were without head coach Nate McMillan, who had announced after Wednesday’s game he would not be coaching Friday for personal reasons. McMillan plans to return Saturday night. Assistant coach Dan Burke served as acting head coach.

“They hit every shot,” Burke told FOX Sports Indiana. “We allowed them to get in a rhythm. I didn’t think we had any zip in our step. Weak-side we were straight-legged. We were reacting after they dictated the action. We’ve got to take it to them next time.”

Indiana tied it in the third quarter at 82-all, but the Pacers couldn’t get over the hump.

“We’ve got great guys. We always fight back,” Burke said. “We had a chance to take the lead. I was thinking if we have to just take the lead, maybe it will really turn. We had a couple of open looks when we were down one point and just missed them.

“That happens when you are down so far and you fight so hard to come back and your legs aren’t there. We have to figure a way to get better starts and quit digging the holes we’re digging. I love the way they are always sticking together.”

For the Pacers, it was their first loss when they shot 50 percent or better. The Pacers were previously 19-0. The Hornets shot 53 percent.

Victor Oladipo delivered 35 points on 11-of-21 shooting in the Pacers’ loss.

Source: Fox Sports

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