Excitement and optimism flowed across Philadelphia as Joel Embiid's play led the Sixers to a 10-5 January, but that quickly fizzled out when he and this year's No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons were ruled out for the season. This led to the fan base becoming frustrated.
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And as head coach Brett Brown was pulling up to the Wells Fargo Center prior to tip-off on Monday night, he nearly collided with that frustration. While Brown was driving on Pattison Avenue, a fan driving about 10 miles per hour started to heckle him about previous decisions he's made and the future of the franchise.
"He wants to know why I didn't play two bigs together, then he wants to know if Ben Simmons really can be a point guard, and [Dario Saric is] doing great and I love the way he plays so hard," Brown said. "It went from scolding me, to praising me, to questioning which direction we're going. It is just Philadelphia."
But Brown understands where the fans are coming from. He's well aware of what could've been if Simmons doesn't suffer a Jones fracture on the last day of training camp and Embiid remains healthy.
In the final home game of the season, Brown hoped the fans saw where the team can project to be in the upcoming years.
"I hope that they are proud of the style of play, I hope that they are proud that they don't see back down in our group," Brown said. "That despite this litany of injuries that we have, that they play with a spirit, they're proud to put on the uniform and they see some of those peripheral things that I just mentioned."
The Sixers didn't start off with the style of play they would've liked to in the first quarter. Indiana led by as many 20 points in the quarter
Paul George hit from nearly every spot on the court and exploded for 17 points in the quarter on 6-of-9 shooting, including 3 of 6 from three. He finished with 27 points, two rebounds, five assists and two steals.
But the Sixers, just like they have all season, didn't back away from the challenge.
Richaun Holmes started a 9-0 run after muscling a rebound away from Myles Turner on a three-point play to put the Sixers within seven points of the Pacers, 52-45, in the second quarter.
"They came out and jumped us to start the game and we had to try and claw our way back in," Holmes said. "So just trying to bring some energy, energy plays, run the floor, was able to get a couple of dunks and kind of liven us up a little of bit."
But, the Sixers weren't able to claw their way back and prevail over the Pacers, especially in the midst of some elbows thrown between Gerald Henderson and George (see story).
The Pacers improved their winning streak to four games, shooting 57.6 percent from the field as they moved even closer to clinching a playoff spot. Some had playoff hopes for the Sixers when they were 4 1/2 games back of the eighth seed in January, but that didn't last.
Brown wouldn't say they would make the jump to the playoffs next season, but he does think they showed plenty of things to build on next year.
"In general, fast forwarding to next year," Brown said, "this year provided a lot of positive signs that you really feel we have a chance to, and we will, build on."