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The Philadelphia 76ers will look to snap a two-game losing streak when they host the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.
The Sixers, who sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference playoff standings, remain one game behind the Pacers for third.
Philadelphia fell 107-91 Friday night in Houston without All-Star center Joel Embiid (left knee) for the eighth straight game and reserve center Boban Marjanovic (right knee) for the fifth consecutive game.
Tobias Harris picked up the slack in Houston with 22 points and nine rebounds while Jimmy Butler added 19 points and nine rebounds. Ben Simmons, who had been questionable to play with an illness, contributed 15 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. Simmons recorded his career-best 39th double-double.
“We’ve just got to grow from this one, learn from this one, and keep it pushing,” Harris told reporters. “We’ve shown so many spurts of how good we can be.”
T.J. McConnell scored 13 points off the bench, but the shorthanded Sixers were soundly defeated in the low post without Embiid and Marjanovic.
“I look forward to going home,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown told reporters. “I hope to take the things that we’ve learned since the All-Star break, build on that, and clean stuff up.”
The Sixers will need to shoot much better if they hope to oust the Pacers. In the loss to the Rockets, Philadelphia was just 3 of 26 from beyond the 3-point arc. JJ Redick made just 1 of 9 and Mike Scott missed all five of his attempts.
The Sixers, who have won two of three against the Pacers this season, open a three-game homestand at home where they’re 25-9 this season.
The Pacers were defeated easily by the Milwaukee Bucks, 117-98, on Thursday. Obviously, this road game against the Sixers is now that much more important.
“The biggest thing is staying confident and believing in the stuff that we’re running, execution and trying to put together a 48-minute game,” Pacers forward Thad Young told reporters.
Myles Turner scored 22 points and grabbed 17 rebounds while Bojan Bogdanovic added 17 but the Pacers missed way too many open shots against one of the elite teams in the NBA.
Defensively, the Pacers also had a number of breakdowns and the Bucks capitalized.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (29) and Khris Middleton (27) combined for 56 points.
“Too much Antetokounmpo, too much Middleton,” Pacers head coach Nate McMillan told reporters. “When they have the attack at the basket and are knocking down threes, they’re going to be tough to guard. They were pretty much knocking shots down from the perimeter and getting shots at the rim tonight. We missed some shots. We had some open looks that we needed to knock down and we didn’t early.”
The Pacers are still holding on to the No. 3 seed even without guard Victor Oladipo, who is out for the season with a quad injury. This game against the Sixers will be huge in terms of how the playoff race shakes out.