PHILADELPHIA (AP)De’Anthony Melton hit a go-ahead 3-pointer late in overtime and James Harden scored 26 points to help a Philadelphia 76ers team playing without Joel Embiid beat the Indiana Pacers 129-126 on Wednesday night.
Melton put the Sixers ahead 125-124 with 2:16 left in OT. He finished with 19 points.
Montrezl Harrell followed with a rim-rattling dunk, and the Sixers held on for their 11th straight home win. Harrell also had 19 points on 8-for-9 shooting.
”It was one of those games that was almost out of control with the way everyone was playing,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said.
Embiid, who had been playing with a sore lower back, sat out with a sore left foot. Embiid hurt his foot in Monday’s win against New Orleans and was ruled out hours before tipoff against Indiana.
Embiid is day to day, with missed games about the only aspect slowing down his MVP push. Embiid won the NBA scoring title last season, and his 33.5 average this season has him just behind Dallas star Luka Doncic’s league-best 34.3 average.
He was named Eastern Conference player of the month for December. Embiid led all players in scoring at 35.4 points in the month on 55% shooting from the floor and 42% from 3-point range.
Without Embiid, the Sixers needed more production off the bench – and got it, notably from backup center Harrell. Harrell, the NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2019-2020 when Rivers still coached the Los Angeles Clippers, made all five baskets in the first half and scored 12 points.
”With Joel being out, Montrezl was playing well on both ends of the ball,” Harden said. ”He’s a true vet.”
Harden missed two free throws with 28 seconds left in OT and the Sixers up one. But he had a big blocked shot late that preserved the lead and set up two Sixers free throws that essentially sealed the win.
Buddy Hield led the Pacers with 24 points, and Bennedict Mathurin had 19. Tyrese Haliburton had 16 points and 12 assists.
The Pacers stormed back in the fourth, keyed by Hield’s 3 that pulled them within one and a Mathurin bucket on a goaltending call during a 10-0 run.
The Sixers pulled ahead on Melton’s fourth 3 of the game, but Hield hit a 3 and Myles Turner scored for a 120-116 lead.
Without Embiid, the Sixers tied the game in regulation on Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris buckets in the final 37 seconds.
The Pacers outscored the Sixers 36-23 in the fourth but couldn’t hold on in the final minutes.
”We never should have been in overtime. We know that,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. ”We need to grow stronger from this. We’ve got to learn from some of the things that happened and we’ve got to build on some of the good things, especially down the stretch.”
Harris had 19 points and 10 rebounds. Maxey scored 17 points in his return to the starting lineup after he missed about six weeks with a broken foot.
”He doesn’t have his rhythm yet but it’s coming,” Rivers said. ”You can see it. He’ll be back very soon.”
Pacers: Former 76ers guard and Pittsburgh native T.J. McConnell wore a Damar Hamlin jersey to the game. ”I just wanted to show support for a fellow Pittsburgh native and athlete, and let him and his family know that all of us here are thinking of him and praying for him,” McConnell said.
76ers: Harden has at least 20 points and five assists in six straight games. … Won their third OT game of the season … Improved to 15-1 after leading at halftime.
Pacers: Host Portland on Friday.
76ers: Host Chicago on Friday. Rivers said he didn’t know if Embiid would play Friday.
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