INDIANAPOLIS — The Philadelphia 76ers’ club-record losing streak is becoming as much of an issue for the Sixers’ opponents as it is the Sixers themselves.
Indiana Pacers forward Paul George certainly did not want the streak to end on the Pacers’ home court Monday night, where Indiana has won 31 times this season.
George hit a career-high 15 free throws and guard Lance Stephenson scored 25 points, leading the Pacers to a 99-90 victory over the Sixers, extending Philadelphia’s losing streak to 21 games. The Pacers (50-17) overcame a nine-point deficit in the first quarter to nail down their fourth straight win.
“We expected them to come out and play a hard game,” George said. “That’s what they did. They had a lot on the line. Nobody wants to be part of a losing streak.”
The Sixers are five losses short of the NBA record of 26 consecutive losses set by the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers. The Sixers play Wednesday at New York.
Forward Thaddeus Young led the Sixers (15-52) by scoring 17 of his 23 points in the second half. Guards Hollis Thompson and Tony Wroten each added 17 points. Guard Michael Carter-Williams had 15 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
If the Sixers were expected to give in early to the Pacers, who have the best record in the Eastern Conference, they were not accommodating. Led by Thompson and Carter-Williams, who each scored 11 points in the first half, Philadelphia led for all of the opening quarter except for a game-opening basket by Stephenson.
Sixer players jumped off the bench in celebration for each of Young’s nine baskets. Young scored 10 points in the third quarter.
“We were really there,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said of his team’s performance. “We’ve played this team, they’re well coached, they have so much talent, hard three times (this season). Tonight had a different feel because we were there.”
The Sixers have not won since Jan. 29, when Evan Turner, now a Pacer, scored the game-winning basket in a 95-94 win over Boston.
“We just keep going out there and continuing to play and just trying to figure out how to win basketball games,” Young said.
The game was physical. The Sixers were called for 33 fouls, sending the Pacers to the line 38 times (they converted 31 of them). The Sixers were 11-for-20 at the free throw line.
“Physical. They bite, scratch and claw and punch,” said Sixers center Henry Sims, who had 11 rebounds and nine points. “You’ve got to do the same thing. You might get a few calls you don’t like. Nothing I’m not used to. I’m from the Big East, man.”
Stephenson scored 19 points in the first half and led the Pacers in scoring for the first time in nearly two months. He hit 7-of-9 shots in the first half to help the Pacers grab an eight-point lead at halftime after trailing by nine points less than five minutes into the game.
“Just being aggressive. I hit open shots,” Stephenson said. “We got through it. We made smart plays and got the W.”
Indiana forward David West scored just seven points, but was a monster on the boards. He had a team-high 12 rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Just when the Sixers were getting a little too close in the fourth quarter, Stephenson buried a 3-pointer with 5:10 left to put the Pacers in front 88-81.
“When Lance is going to the basket, and he’s playing with confidence and being aggressive, that’s the best basketball we’re going to get from him,” George said. “He has the ability to make plays and make his teammates look good. We’ve going to need that from him.”
NOTES: Pacers C Andrew Bynum was kept out of Monday’s game due to a sore knee. Since making his Pacers debut March 11, Bynum has played every other game but not in consecutive games. “This is what we signed up for,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “We know he’s a great player with some problem-area knees. He’s going to be in some times, he’s going to be out some times.” … Pacers G/F Evan Turner, a former Sixer, had made more than half his shots in his previous five games. … Sixers G James Nunnally, a D-League All-Star who was signed to a 10-day contract Monday, made his Sixers debut in the opening quarter. PG Eric Maynor was waived Sunday to make room for Nunnally, although Maynor was mistakenly listed as an active player on the Sixers official roster, which is signed by the head coach and distributed prior to the game. … Sixers G Tony Wroten is being used at both guard positions by coach Brett Brown. He had his 14th start of the season.
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