INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — 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.