INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s injury-plagued roster is nearly mended, which is starting to translate into a succession of wins.
Roy Hibbert had 14 points, 15 rebounds and five blocked shots to help the surging Pacers beat the Philadelphia 76ers 94-74 on Sunday night.
The victory moved the Pacers (25-34) three percentage points ahead of Brooklyn and Charlotte in the crowded race for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Indiana has won eight of 10, but coach Frank Vogel isn’t fixated on the standings just yet.
“One day we’re tied for eighth, then we’re back in ninth,” he said. “So we can’t look ahead. We have to take it game by game.”
George Hill scored 17 points and Luis Scola added 15 off the bench for the Pacers. Hibbert had his 14th double-double of the season and was as active as he’s been in weeks, Vogel said.
“Getting down towards the end of the season, we know every game is important,” Hibbert said. “We just try to put a little more emphasis on everything and how we go about our business.”
Robert Covington led the Sixers with 12 points despite leaving in the third period because of injury. Ish Smith added 11 off the bench.
Philadelphia has lost six of seven.
Indiana took a 21-18 lead in the first quarter when C.J. Miles, a late scratch from the starting lineup due to a sore right foot, came off the bench and scored on a layup and free throw.
Miles finished with seven points and was part of a 48-point output from Indiana’s reserves that included 12 by Rodney Stuckey. The Pacers’ bench averages 40.9 points per game, fourth-best in the NBA.
Hill capped an 18-6 run with his only 3-pointer, giving the Pacers a 53-36 lead that was narrowed to 59-46 by halftime.
Covington’s injury came with 3:18 to play in the third quarter. The 6-foot-9 forward landed awkwardly on his right side following a layup. He walked off the court holding his right arm and went straight to the locker room.
“He took a big hit,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “The X-rays were negative on his shooting elbow.”
The 76ers outscored Indiana 18-14 in the third, but were unable to carry the momentum into the final period as their leading active scorer remained sidelined.
Indiana held the 76ers to 10 points in the fourth quarter and 28 on 14-of-45 shooting in the second half. Both point totals were season lows for the Pacers on defense.
“I thought we made them get to their second and third action,” Indiana forward David West said. “As the game wore on, we got better defensively.”
Poor offense has been a season-long issue for the 76ers. They entered the game last in the league in points per game (90.3), field goal percentage (.411) and free throw percentage (.681).
Indiana’s remaining 23-game schedule includes 12 losing teams and 13 home games.
“It’s just locking in and saying that if we want to make the playoffs, we need to win these games and win tough games,” Hibbert said.
Speculation keeps building regarding Pacers All-Star Paul George. Brown is amazed that George could possibly return to the court this season from a broken leg. “When I hear about Paul George being in the conversation this year of coming back, I was just blown away. What an amazing thing the human body is, to come back from that and playing in that short timeframe,” Brown said.
Philadelphia’s roster has been overhauled throughout the season. Nine players remained Sunday from the 15-man roster Brown submitted for the season opener against the Pacers.
76ers: Philadelphia made its last field goal with 6:49 to play before missing its final 11 attempts.
Pacers: Indiana closed the game on a 17-3 run after Philadelphia pulled to 77-71 with 9:07 remaining.
The 76ers host Toronto on Monday night.
The Pacers host New York on Wednesday night.
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