The Sixers have been and will continue to run into opponents who are fighting for the postseason.
Complete coverage of the Philadelphia 76ers and their rivals in the NBA from NBC Sports Philadelphia.
The Pacers are caught in a battle for one of the final positions in the Eastern Conference. A victory over the Sixers put them at seventh (37-36), two games ahead of the eighth seed.
For each team that is desperately searching for any win they can get, it is a learning experience for the Sixers on what it is necessary to play beyond April 12.
"It's a chance for us to go see what it really takes," Brown said. "We admit all the time, this time of year is different than it is in January. It will be different in a few weeks when you watch the playoffs. It's really a whole different physicality and mindset. You feel it."
The Sixers trailed the Pacers by six points at halftime. The Pacers burst into the third with a 17-4 run, including 14 straight. The Sixers fell into a 25-point deficit in the fourth.
While the field goal shooting was close (42.7 percent by the Pacers compared to 39.8 percent by the Sixers), the Sixers shot 14 for 41 from three. The Pacers were a more efficient 7 for 17.
"They really did a good job of guarding our guys, guarding our structure," Brown said. "I felt like collectively the lack of pop, the lack of offensively energy, and I give them credit for that, along with one or two miscues on defense, was ultimately the reason (the Sixers struggled)."
The Sixers were attacked by a collaborative Pacers effort. Paul George, who Brown considers one of his "personal favorites," scored a game-high 21 points (eight rebounds). In all, seven Pacers all scored in double digits. Myles Turner led the defensive charge with a 17-point, 16-rebound double-double.
"That's a team that's been in the playoffs," T.J. McConnell said. "They have experience. You can't really learn experience. You have to be in the league for a while to gain it. They have that and they showed it tonight."
The Pacers also took care of the details of a box score. They outrebounded the Sixers, 51-48. They also attempted 29 free throws compared to the Sixers' 14 and outscored them by 14 points at the line.
"It's going to be up another notch because they're trying to make the playoffs," Robert Covington said. "We have to see how they change the pace, how aggressive they are on defense, and see how they execute their sets. That's one thing you learn from."
The Sixers' goal is to get to that stage of contending. They began to build traction in January when they went 10-5. It was a small window into what is required to compile enough wins to reach postseason status.
"Playing for a playoff spot is what you want to be out there doing," Gerald Henderson said. "I think we still play hard but there was a real, you see when we were creeping up there in the standings how hard we were really playing every single night and how we were competing every game. We got kind of a feel of that ourselves but these teams are trying to get in. They're shooting all their bullets. They're fighting for their lives."
Five of the Sixers' last seven games have been against teams ranging from title contenders (Warriors) to those clawing for a spot (Bulls). In their remaining nine games this season, they will face the Hawks, Cavaliers, Raptors, Bulls, Bucks and Pacers again. Every game matters for these teams, and it's not going to get any easier for the Sixers.