Hibbert's 27-point effort carries Pacers past shorthanded 76ers
Indiana coach Frank Vogel found out shortly before tip-off that Philadelphia would be playing without some of its key players.
''It's tough to play a game when you find out at the last minute that three or four of their top guys are out,'' Vogel said. ''You've got to give the Sixers credit, they played a strong basketball game.''
Just not strong enough to overcome a career game for Roy Hibbert.
Indiana's star center had a season-high 27 points and added 13 rebounds as the Pacers beat Philadelphia 106-98 on Saturday night.
''He's been dominant defensively all year, and when we need him to step up on the offensive end, he does,'' Vogel said.
Hibbert had career highs in free throws made and attempted while going 13 of 16 from the line.
''I shoot free throws after practice, before practice. It's part of being confident,'' Hibbert said.
Spencer Hawes, who came in as the Sixers' second-leading scorer, didn't dress because of a sore left knee. Tony Wroten (back) and Thaddeus Young (personal) didn't travel with the team to Indianapolis, leaving the Sixers with just nine players in uniform.
There wasn't any change in game plan for Hibbert to make up for Hawes' absence, Vogel said.
''We've been struggling to get Roy the ball,'' Vogel said. ''He's doing all the dirty work for us, protecting the rim, rebounding, offensive rebounding. We haven't been sharp in our post game the last couple games.''
It didn't matter much in the first half, as the Sixers kept within seven points of the East's top team. The teams were tied 11 times in the first half and the lead changed 15 times, with Indiana able to build just a 56-52 halftime lead.
The Sixers kept it close in the third quarter, even as both teams struggled to find the basket. Philadelphia shot just 7 of 24 from the field and Indiana missed seven straight shots at one point. The Pacers were 7 of 17 from the field but closed the quarter with a 9-2 run to take a seemingly safe 77-66 lead.
''They've played together a lot,'' Sixers coach Brett Brown said. ''There's a trust factor that they have, that they know what's going on behind their first line of defense.
''We just couldn't convert some of those shots. Some of them were good looks, some of them we just give them credit.''
But the Sixers opened the fourth quarter with a 19-4 run to take an 85-81 lead. Hibbert completed a three-point play to tie the game at 86 with 6:18 to play.
''He's always been there for us, he's always anchoring the paint for us,'' said Paul George, who had 19 points. ''We know that if anything is breaking down, we have the best rim protector.''
Hibbert then rebounded Evan Turner's miss and George hit a 3-pointer at the other end to give Indiana a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
''We're an experienced team. We don't worry,'' Hibbert said of Indiana's falling behind. ''We know that we can finish games.''
Michael Carter-Williams led Philadelphia with a career-high 29 points and Turner had 21 points and 11 rebounds. James Anderson scored 13 in the Sixers' fifth loss in six games and fourth straight on the road.
''I knew the scoring load would fall on me more tonight without Spencer and Tony and Thaddeus,'' Carter-Williams said. ''I knew it would be tough for us to get points, so I tried to take more shots and create more shots for myself.''
Lance Stephenson added 18 points and David West had 17 points and 11 rebounds in Indiana's third straight win, while George Hill finished with 11 points. The Pacers are 7-0 at home.
''We knew this would be a very tough game,'' West said. ''We took care of business when we had to.''
This marked just the fourth time this season that Indiana led at halftime.
NOTES: The Pacers scored a season-high 106 points while shooting 35 of 76 from the field (46.1 percent). ... Indiana had team season highs in free throws made (31) and attempts (38). ... The Sixers attempted 102 field goals, the most this season against Indiana. But Philadelphia's shooting percentage of 34.3 was second-worst against the Pacers, who held Milwaukee to 34.1 percent shooting on Nov. 15. ... Philadelphia's 32 free throw attempts were also the most against Indiana this season.