NBA

76ers-Pacers Preview

Indiana Pacers star Paul George and coach Frank Vogel have differing opinions on what it means to face some awful teams this week.

No matter what they may think, it's practically unthinkable to believe that the Pacers could lose to their next opponent.

They'll be out to avoid a season-high third straight home loss Monday night when they face a horrendous Philadelphia 76ers team that committed an astounding number of turnovers the last time these clubs met.

Indiana (36-33) will be favored in its next three contests, with a home game Thursday against a New Orleans team playing without superstar Anthony Davis and a trip Saturday to Brooklyn.

"I think this is great going through a playoff stretch facing opponents that we should win (against)," George said. "I think that should be a good confidence booster for us."

The Pacers can't afford to slip up since they are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with a one-half game lead on Chicago and Detroit.

"We can't get caught up in a quote-unquote positive schedule," Vogel insisted. "Detroit's got a really favorable schedule, Chicago's got a favorable schedule."

Nothing is more favorable than facing Philadelphia, which needs one win to avoid matching the 1972-73 76ers for the worst record over an 82-game schedule. The club is without injured star rookie Jahlil Okafor while third-leading scorer Robert Covington has missed the last five games due to a concussion.

Philadelphia (9-61) has dropped nine straight on the road, 18 of 19 overall and is 3-41 against East foes. The 76ers have lost seven of the last eight to the Pacers and four straight in Indiana.

The Pacers cruised to a 112-85 rout Nov. 18 when Okafor and Covington were both healthy. The 76ers had 31 turnovers to match the worst total by an NBA team in the last 11 seasons.

Philadelphia averages a league-worst 17.1 turnovers, although it has fared better over the last three games with a total of 30. That hasn't prevented more losing as its overall slide reached five games following Sunday's 120-105 setback to Boston in which the club missed 17 straight shots in one first-quarter stretch.

"I think we missed 16 or 17 shots in a row," coach Brett Brown said. "Think about that, that's hard to do."

Carl Landry scored a season-high 26 points for Philadelphia, which is 1-14 in the second half of back-to-back games.

Teams playing the Sixers often rest any players who need it. Vogel did not say whether he would do so, although he said the club wants to be careful with George's toe and Rodney Stuckey's foot.

Point guard Ty Lawson may be back after missing five games with an injured left foot.

"I would anticipate trying to get him out there," Vogel said.

George posted the second-best scoring effort of his career with 45 in Saturday's 115-111 loss to Oklahoma City in which Indiana blew a double-digit lead. The Pacers also came up short in Thursday's 101-94 overtime defeat to Toronto.

"We've let the past two games on our floor get away," George said. "We've got to get better, that's the obvious and we're working towards that."

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