PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Indiana Pacers aren’t worried about looking for help. They believe they’re playing well enough to clinch a playoff spot on their own.
Paul George scored 27 points before he was ejected after a scuffle with 76ers guard Gerald Henderson and the Pacers inched closer to a playoff berth with a 120-111 victory in Philadelphia on Monday night.
The Pacers (41-40) would have wrapped up a spot Monday if Chicago or Miami lost, but both won to improve to 40-41.
“I didn’t look at the scoreboard once,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “My focus is on us and what we need to do. We did that with two solid games on the road against Orlando and Philly and we’ve got one more at home we need to get.”
Thaddeus Young added 20 points, Myles Turner scored 18 and Kevin Seraphin had 17 to give the Pacers their fourth straight victory and move them within one win (or a loss by the Bulls or Heat) of guaranteeing a playoff spot for the sixth time in the past seven years.
The 76ers (28-53) lost for the seventh straight time and finished with a home record of 17-24. They conclude their fifth straight season out of the playoffs Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks.
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot paced the Sixers with 24 points and Richaun Holmes had 17 points.
The game got nasty with 2:59 remaining in the fourth quarter when George and Henderson crashed the floor together and exchanged a few shoves. Both players were ejected because of the altercation, which was precipitated by an elbow Henderson threw at George on the previous trip down the court.
“He was throwing jabs, throwing punches at my stomach all night and I didn’t retaliate until late in the game when (the officials) weren’t doing (anything) about it,” George said.
“(Henderson) pulled me down and I got a double technical for doing nothing. And he threw an elbow at my neck and I get another technical for nothing. It was a (crappy) officiating job. It was physical all night and they did nothing after I warned them what was going on.”
Henderson said he didn’t deserve an ejection either, but admitted elbowing George on the play preceding their scuffle.
“He elbowed me in the back and I elbowed him coming back down the other end,” Henderson said. “As I came off the screen I knew contact was coming so I tried to bump him. I didn’t try to hit him in the face, but that’s exactly what happened.”
George said Henderson has played physical against him his entire NBA career, but more so in games played in Philadelphia.
“For whatever reason he doesn’t like getting scored on by me,” George said. “Every time he’s at home I guess that’s when he feels confident. He’s sweet on the road but at home is when he gets (brave).
“Maybe next year I’ll just set some (fine) money aside and I’ll have my get-back. I’m just (joking). Hopefully, the league looks at what happened and they clean that up.”
The Pacers ran out to a 16-4 lead and built a 21-point lead with 1:55 to play in the first quarter.
Pacers: Guard Aaron Brooks left the game in the first half with a sore right knee and did not return. He played 7 minutes, making a 3-pointer. … Guard/forward Glenn Robinson III (left calf strain) sat out his ninth straight game. Veteran center Al Jefferson (sprained left ankle) missed his seventh in a row. Jefferson was in uniform and on the bench and is expected to be back in the rotation for the playoffs.
76ers: The Sixers will end the season with six players on the injured list: Joel Embiid (left knee surgery), Jahlil Okafor (right knee soreness), Ben Simmons (acute fracture, right foot), Sergio Rodriguez (left hamstring strain), Robert Covington (right knee injury) and Jerryd Bayless (left wrist surgery).
DRAWING A CROWD
The Sixers saw a sizeable bump in attendance this season. Heading into their home finale they were averaging 17,398 fans at the Wells Fargo Center, about 2,500 more than last season. “It’s going to be great starting next year,” Holmes said. “It’s going to be something this city has been waiting for and the fans deserve. I’m excited for the city and I’m excited for the team”
WHERE HE STARTED
Young was selected by Philadelphia with the 12th overall pick of the 2007 NBA draft and played seven seasons with the Sixers, appearing in 516 games and averaging 13.7 points and 5.5 rebounds in 30.1 minutes per game.
Pacers: Wednesday they close out the regular season when they host the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks (42-38) have won three in a row.
76ers: Wednesday they travel to New York to take on the Knicks, who have lost three straight and are 30-51 entering their final game.
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