Dallas Mavericks

Sixers-Mavericks observations: Ben Simmons lifts Sixers to 1st win in Dallas since ’05

Sixers-Mavericks observations: Ben Simmons lifts Sixers to 1st win in Dallas since ’05

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DALLAS — The headlining matchup of the night was Joel Embiid against former teammate and best friend Nerlens Noel, but by the end, I was left wanting to see more of Embiid vs. Dirk Nowitzki in the Sixers' 112-110 win Saturday night over the Mavericks.

Embiid started the game against Noel. He began out on the arc early on and quickly shifted to attacking the basket. Instead up pulling up from long range, he often caught the ball behind the three-point line and drove the hoop (23 points and nine rebounds on the night).

Embiid had a clear physical edge against Noel and used it in his favor. If you go by the official listings, Embiid has 40 pounds on Noel (260 to 220), but based on the fact Embiid estimates he weighs between 280 and 285 pounds, that differential probably is much larger.

The 20-year veteran Nowitzki did a solid job defending Embiid, especially during the Mavericks’ second-quarter push. During a one-minute span, Embiid missed a jumper while guarded by Nowitzki and then Nowitzki blocked another shot attempt.

This wasn’t a battle for the ages, but it was a matchup of two different ages of NBA basketball — a 39-year-old future Hall of Famer against a 23-year-old star on the rise. Embiid hit a trio of threes in the same game Nowitzki moved into 12th place on the NBA’s all-time three-point leader list. Watching the two compete had me thinking of all the matchups they could’ve had if Embiid hadn’t missed his first two seasons.

• This game was a contest of two teams looking for their second win of the season. The Sixers found themselves in familiar territory as they had to hold on to a lead late in the fourth. Would this game turn out different than Wednesday's one-point loss to the Rockets?

The Sixers led 109-107 with 20 seconds to play. Embiid hit a shot over Nowitzki and Harrison Barnes answered with a trey. Up 111-110 with 8.9 seconds on the clock, Jerryd Bayless drew a foul on Yogi Ferrell and only hit one of two free throws. That gave the Mavs a final chance. Ferrell sprinted to the basket where he was fouled by Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot with 0.2 left.

When Ferrell missed the first free throw, both teams made defensive adjustments. Embiid, Dario Saric, Noel, and Salah Mejri subbed back in for the final shot. The Mavs failed to connect.

• Overheard from the stands: “I can’t believe they’re playing Ben Simmons as a point guard.” As if on cue, Simmons dunked the ball so hard the basket still was shaking during the Mavs' possession. He played aggressively in the paint, as Brett Brown wants him to focus on finishing at the rim, and tallied 23 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, three steals and a block in 34 minutes.

• Dario Saric got the start with JJ Redick sidelined by lower back tightness. He has been struggling to hit his stride early in the season and looked to find a rhythm immediately. Saric pulled up for the first shot of the game, a three, and knocked it down. He scored all of his 12 points from long range (4 for 12 from the field, 4 for 7 from three).

• As for Redick, he’s not concerned about his back. “Nothing out of the ordinary,” Redick said. “I’ll be fine. It’s not a big deal.” He started feeling tightness Friday morning.

• Embiid continued to play physical after stating earlier this week, “I’m not made of glass.” And there were still tumbles. Embiid was tripped up by Wesley Matthews, fell out of bounds and came up holding his back. He shook it off and stayed in the game.

• Nik Stauskas received playing time in the absence of Redick. He scored his first points of the season (four) and picked off a steal. Stauskas put time in before the game working on his shot.

• Both teams could attribute a large chunk of their turnovers to one player. Embiid committed seven of the Sixers' 14, while Dennis Smith Jr. was charged with six of the Mavs' 18.

• A sneaky J.J. Barea drove by Embiid for a clear look at the basket and a layup. Reminder: Barea is listed at six feet tall.

• Mavericks fans dressed for the theme Saturday night.

Embiid to Noel: 'I'm going to cook your a--'

Embiid to Noel: 'I'm going to cook your a--'

DALLAS -- Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel are best friends. The kind of friends who are so close they can say things like this to one another without causing a stir:

“I’m going to cook your ass,” Embiid informed Noel. 

Embiid and Noel will be opponents for the first time Saturday night when the Mavericks host the Sixers. They were teammates for over two years before Noel was traded to Dallas in February. Embiid relished in the highly competitive practices against Noel. He credits battling against Noel and Jahlil Okafor early in his career to making him better. 

So when Embiid told Noel of his intentions for the game, Noel laughed and told Embiid, “We’ll see.” 

“He knows what happened in those practices,” Embiid said at shootaround Saturday morning. 

To get a reference point of how the two bigs are faring this season, Embiid enters the game averaging 20.0 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. Noel is posting 8.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.0 while splitting his six games between the starting lineup and bench. 

Embiid expects he will be double-teamed by the Mavericks and see a zone defense as well. If he eyes an opportunity to take on Noel at the basket, he’s got a plan in mind. 

“Any time I get the matchup to go one-on-one against him," Embiid said, "I’m going to try to dunk on him.” 

While Noel’s time with the Sixers was marked by his vocal displeasure with his role, he still remains tied to his first home. Embiid and Noel spent time together this offseason when Noel made trips back to Philadelphia. Noel also had dinner with his former teammates, including Ben Simmons and Richaun Holmes, the night before the game in Dallas.

“I love the city, love the fans and the people there,” Noel said. “Regardless of what I went through, it was a great experience. I grew as a man, a young man and a person.” 

Embiid and Noel will add an extra punch to Saturday’s game. Expect them to push one another to play at a high level with animated banter along the way. As for all that trash talking, it will be in good nature. 

“It doesn’t matter if he got traded,” Embiid said. “We’re still great friends.” 

Injury notes
JJ Redick is questionable because of lower back tightness. If he cannot play, Brett Brown will look to Justin Anderson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Nik Stauskas to fill the void. T.J. McConnell and Simmons could receive additional minutes as well … Okafor remained at the team hotel during shootaround with an upper respiratory infection. He is officially out for the game. 

NBA Notes: Norman Powell inks 4-year extension with Raptors

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NBA Notes: Norman Powell inks 4-year extension with Raptors

TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors signed guard Norman Powell to a four-year extension Thursday.

The deal begins next season and is reportedly worth $42 million.

The 24-year-old Powell averaged 8.4 points and 2.2 rebounds in 76 games last season. The former UCLA player was drafted 46th overall in 2015, and averaged 5.6 points in 49 games as a rookie.

"I'm ready for it," Powell said. "It's what I've worked for. It's what I've fought for my first two years. . . I've worked, I've pushed myself in a totally different way this offseason. I'm preparing myself for a full 82-game season, for increased minutes, taking care of my body, just training and trying to improve. So I'm ready for it. I'm excited to get the season started."

Hornets: Batum to miss 6-8 weeks with elbow injury
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Hornets swingman Nicolas Batum will miss a minimum of six to eight weeks with a left elbow injury.

The team announced that an MRI on Thursday revealed the nine-year NBA veteran tore his ulnar collateral ligament in his non-dominant arm in the first quarter of Charlotte's preseason road contest against the Pistons on Wednesday.

The Hornets have not decided if Batum will need surgery or will attempt to rehab the injury.

Batum, who signed a five-year, $120 million contract in 2016, was expected to start for Charlotte. Batum's injury means Jeremy Lamb could be thrust into a starting role to open the regular season.

Batum last year became the first Charlotte player to score more than 1,000 points, grab 450 rebounds and hand out over 450 assists in a season.

Wizards: Morris rejoins team after trial, hernia surgery
WASHINGTON -- Washington Wizards power forward Markieff Morris had a busy month.

"I'm in a great position. I just had a beautiful young daughter. I just had successful surgery, and of course we beat the case," Morris said Thursday in his return to the team for the first time since his wild ride began.

The most recent milestone occurred Tuesday, when a Phoenix jury acquitted Markieff and his twin brother, Boston Celtics forward Marcus, after a two-week trial on aggravated assault charges. The Morris brothers were accused of being part of a group that beat a former friend in January 2015 outside a high school basketball game.

"Our lawyers did a great job the entire case," Morris said. "We were positive the entire time, confident that we were going to win. Just happy it's behind us and not a distraction anymore" (see full story).

Mavericks: Team leaves Carlisle, veterans at home
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle did not make the trip to Orlando for a preseason game against the Magic due to illness.

Dallas officials said associate head coach Melvin Hunt will stand in for Carlisle on Thursday night.

Carlisle was not alone in not making the trip. Veterans Dirk Nowitzki, Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Nerlens Noel, J.J. Barea, Josh McRoberts and Devin Harris also will not be in Orlando to face the Magic.

The Mavericks (2-0) are coming off a 118-71 home win over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night. Assistant coach Kaleb Canales also did not make the trip to Orlando so that he can remain in Dallas to work with the veteran players who remained at home.