INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Roy Hibbert had 22 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks, leading the short-handed Indiana Pacers to a 103-91 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.
Indiana won its season opener for the fourth consecutive year, but this was the first one during that stretch without All-Star swingman Paul George, who is out after breaking his right leg in two places. The Pacers also played without two other starters, power forward David West (sprained right ankle) and guard George Hill (bruised left knee).
But Hibbert led the way against the youthful roster of the 76ers.
The center scored the first four points in a 16-6 third-quarter run that gave Indiana a 78-67 lead. Philadelphia never got closer than three the rest of the night.
Tony Wroten led the 76ers with 22 points. Nerlens Noel had six points and 10 rebounds in his NBA debut.
After Indiana lost its two most dynamic offensive players, Lance Stephenson in free agency and George to the gruesome injury in August, many wondered how the Pacers would respond. When coach Frank Vogel announced this week that West and Hill would miss at least the first three games, the outlook for Indiana looked even worse.
Hibbert stepped up in the opener, going 6 of 8 from the field and 10 of 13 from the free-throw line. His presence in the middle also created space for his teammates, who took advantage.
Rodney Stuckey (16 points) and C.J. Miles (15 points), Indiana’s two biggest free-agent acquisitions, each made a strong first impression. Donald Sloan had 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, and Chris Copeland finished with 11 points.
Philadelphia led 51-48 at the break.
Most of the Sixers’ problems were self-inflicted. They were 6 of 21 from 3-point range and 17 of 30 from the line. Noel, the sixth pick in the 2013 draft, was just 2 of 11 from the field after missing all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
76ers: Had 12 fouls in the first quarter, matching their field goal total. … Only one of six draft picks from June played Wednesday. K.J. McDaniels finished with two points in his debut. … Opened the game by outscoring Pacers 20-2 in paint and finished with a 48-32 advantage inside.
Pacers: George opened the night by thanking fans for their support as he tries to recover from his injury, and then promised to come back stronger than ever. … Finished the first quarter on 12-0 run to take a 26-24 lead. … Honored former coach Bobby “Slick” Leonard at halftime by rehanging a banner adding the words “Hall of Fame” to it. Larry Bird also presented Leonard with keys to a new Cadillac Escalade. … Hibbert was called for a technical foul after a brief scuffle with Malcolm Thomas late in the first half.
Philadelphia visits Milwaukee on Friday.
The Pacers host the Grizzlies on Friday in what will be a homecoming for three former Indiana prep stars — Mike Conley, Courtney Lee and Zach Randolph.
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