The lowly 76ers had closed to a six-point deficit at about the three-minute mark of the final quarter — then they managed just three points the rest of the way.
The Pacers limited Philadelphia to just 10 fourth-quarter points to pull away for a 94-74 triumph at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The 76ers didn’t score in the final 6 minutes, 49 seconds and made just 4-of-22 shots in the final quarter.
Indiana scored the game’s final 13 points. The 74 points allowed were the fewest of the season for a Pacers opponent.
Such an outcome was to be expected, considering the 76ers have one of the NBA’s worst records (13-46) and team management made it obvious early in the season that the franchise was playing for the future.
The Pacers (25-34) improved to 10-3 with point guard George Hill in the starting lineup, have won eight of 10, and remained percentage points ahead of Brooklyn and Charlotte for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Indiana is also just a half game behind Miami for the seventh spot.
“We wanted to make sure we got this win,” center Roy Hibbert said in an on-court TV interview with Fox Sports Indiana. “We didn’t want to let this one get away from us. We’re making a final push toward the end of the season for the playoffs, so every win is needed. I’m happy we got the win.”
Hibbert had his 14th double-double of the season with 14 points and 15 rebounds. He also blocked five shots.
While he says he’s not checking out the NBA standings on a daily basis, evidently head coach Frank Vogel is.
“I’m not watching it but coach is watching it,” Hibbert said. “He’s making us aware practically every day.”
Vogel said his team needs to put teams away sooner when it has the upper hand.
“It just seems like teams are able to make a couple of big shots to hang in the game,” the coach said on Fox Sports Indiana. “We’ve got to get those stops.”
Hill, who had his first career triple-double in Friday’s home win over Cleveland, led the Pacers with 17 points on 8-of-16 shooting. He also had nine rebounds and four assists.
C.J. Miles didn’t start due to pregame treatment on sore feet. Rookie Damjan Rudez got the nod for his first NBA start. He scored just three points, all on free throws. Miles had seven points off the bench, but made just 2-of-10 shots.
“(Scola) playing the first part of this season as a starter and getting extended minutes in our system with these teammates I think really helped him find a rhythm that he didn’t have last year when he was coming in with unfamiliar teammates in an unfamiliar system.”
While Indiana didn’t shoot the ball well, either, making just 41 percent (36-of-88), including 3-of-18 from 3-point range, but still controlled the game throughout. The Pacers led by as many as 17 points midway through the third quarter.
The Pacers had 11 steals and scored 20 points off those turnovers.
Robert Covington led the 76ers with 12 points before exiting in the second half with a right elbow contusion.
The Pacers host the New York Knicks (12-46) Wednesday night. The Knicks have the NBA’s worst record.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.