Luka Doncic

Mavericks 122, Sixers 102: Disappointment in Dallas as Sixers fail to pick up the slack without Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler

Mavericks 122, Sixers 102: Disappointment in Dallas as Sixers fail to pick up the slack without Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler

BOX SCORE 

No Joel Embiid (load management/left knee), no Jimmy Butler (back tightness), and a seemingly endless stretch where every shot you throw up clangs off the rim is not a good recipe for a win.

Without two of their stars, the Sixers fell to the Mavericks on Monday night, 122-102, dropping to 49-28 on the season. They’ll conclude their three-game road trip Wednesday night against the Hawks (7:30 p.m./NBCSP).

Here are observations from the loss: 

• Jonah Bolden started again in place of Embiid and he couldn’t build on his excellent performance against the Timberwolves. Bolden had two points, seven rebounds and an assist. He wasn’t great defensively either and was a team-worst minus-26.

The Sixers didn’t mind the matchup of Marjanovic, the NBA’s tallest player, against the second tallest — 7-foot-2 Salah Mejri. It was a rare instance in which the opposition couldn't regularly pull Marjanovic away from the rim and target him on defense. Marjanovic had five points and seven rebounds in 13 minutes.

• The Sixers hit a brutal cold spell of shooting in the second quarter, missing three after three during a span of over eight minutes without a field goal to wrap up the first half. Though they missed plenty of open looks, the Sixers also settled for a bunch of jumpers, straying from their early success with Ben Simmons in the post.

It didn’t help that their defense couldn’t string together stops or force a turnover. Rookie Shake Milton had an especially difficult time keeping his man in front of him. 

The Mavs won the second quarter, 41-18. 

• With Simmons guarded at times by 6-foot-3 Villanova product Jalen Brunson and 6-foot Trey Burke, we saw a good amount of “Explosion” — the Sixers’ largely improvisational off-ball movement around Simmons in the post.

Simmons made several impressive passes out of the post, including a bullet from the left block to JJ Redick for a three on the right wing in the first quarter.

He wasn’t as effective down low as a scorer. Though he did get to the line 11 times, making seven, Simmons missed several easy attempts near the rim and shot 5 for 15. 

• There was also a clear emphasis on getting Tobias Harris opportunities in the post early. As usual, Harris was at his best in the first quarter, with nine points on 4 for 6 shooting.

Harris had a strong third quarter at the point, running plenty of middle pick-and-rolls with Marjanovic. It’ll be interesting to see if Harris can develop the same sort of synergy with Embiid in the pick-and-roll once the Sixers’ All-Star center returns.

Harris finished with 25 points.

• Life is generally good for the Sixers when Redick is hitting shots.

He did that Monday night, scoring 21 points in the first half, 26 in the game. 

But nobody else could make a three-point shot — the rest of the team shot a combined 2 for 22 from long range. 

Coming in, the Sixers had been 10-2 this season when Redick scored 23 or more points. 

• Zhaire Smith checked in during the third quarter with the game slipping away, and fellow rookie Haywood Highsmith saw the floor in garbage time. Highsmith shot 1 for 3, scoring his first NBA points since his debut on Jan. 8. Smith, scoreless in nine minutes, displayed his athleticism with a chase-down block late in the fourth. 

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Sixers 106, Mavericks 100: Sixers block out drama, return home from road trip with win

Sixers 106, Mavericks 100: Sixers block out drama, return home from road trip with win

After a long West Coast swing that included drama, illness and a clunker in Portland, the Sixers were happy to be home.

They were shorthanded and a little slow getting started, but fought off the Mavericks for a  106-100 win at Wells Fargo Center Saturday night.

With Jimmy Butler and Wilson Chandler still out with an upper-respiratory infection, the Sixers still managed to keep Rookie of the Year favorite Luka Doncic in check on their way to a victory.

Much like the game in Phoenix, the team was led by the trio of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and JJ Redick, who combined for 65 points. The win improves the Sixers to 17-3 at home and 26-14 overall.

Here are observations from the win.

• You have to give Simmons credit. The kid is at least trying. 

On the first offensive possession of the night, he took and swished a fadeaway jumper. 

He then took two more jumpers in the first half. Both were misses — one was particularly bad — but hey, it’s progress. He swished another fadeaway in the fourth quarter. That's 2 for 4 on jumpers. The only way to make them is to take them and it's good to see Simmons gaining the confidence to do so.

Overall, Simmons was assertive and aggressive. He took a team-high 12 field-goal attempts in the first half.  He also notched his sixth triple-double of the season with 20 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists.

• Jonah Bolden continues to impress. Brett Brown said after practice Friday that Bolden earned regular minutes during the Sixers’ West Coast trip.

He’s doing so by supplying athleticism and activity — he had nine rebounds (three offensive) and two blocks Saturday. He also broke double digits for the first time in his NBA career with 11 points.

Defensively, his ability to switch one through five really stands out. Speaking of …

• The rookie sensation Doncic struggled mightily, going just 4 for 16 from the field for 14 points. Bolden on Friday mentioned that he had played Doncic twice last season overseas with Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv and that experience seemed to pay off Saturday night.

Brown used a combination of Bolden and Simmons on him. Not many teams have those kinds of long, athletic players that they can throw at Doncic. Even fellow rookie Landry Shamet held his own against Doncic.

• Embiid was relatively quiet, which for him is 25 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. He did produce two highlight-reel plays.

This on the defensive end.

And this pretty alley-oop from Simmons.

He also elicited "M-V-P" chants from the crowd while hitting a pair of free throws in the fourth quarter.

• Brown acknowledged the elephant in the room pregame, discussing the ESPN report that Butler “aggressively challenged” him from Friday in great detail.

Brown spoke with reporters for roughly 20 minutes and defended himself, his team and Butler adamantly (see story).

• Villanova product Jalen Brunson struggled in his return to the Wells Fargo Center, going just 4 of 14 from the field.

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Sixers vs. Mavericks: 3 storylines to watch, how to live stream the game

Sixers vs. Mavericks: 3 storylines to watch, how to live stream the game

Updated: 6:22 p.m.

The Sixers (25-14) are back at Wells Fargo Center for the first time in two weeks tonight, hosting Luka Doncic and the Mavericks (18-20). Dallas is on the second night of a back-to-back after falling to the Celtics on Friday night.

Jimmy Butler and Wilson Chandler are both out with upper respiratory infections.

Here are the essentials for tonight's matchup.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch.

Luka, Luka, Luka!

As head coach Brett Brown said Friday, Doncic is a player that you buy an NBA ticket for. Doncic is on the path to a historic rookie season.

Among all rookies, his 19.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game averages are first in scoring, third in rebounding, second in assists, third in steals, first in minutes, 10th in field-goal percentage and fifth in three-point field goal percentage.

If Doncic keeps these averages up, the only rookies in NBA history to average at least 19 points, six rebounds and five assists are Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and Grant Hill.

Joel Embiid vs. DeAndre Jordan

If you're reading this, you already know that Embiid has been putting up MVP conversation-type numbers (see: 42-point, 18-rebound double-double at Phoenix).

There are just two players in the NBA averaging more rebounds than Embiid and one of those is Jordan (14.2). Jordan also has the size and strength to challenge Embiid one-on-one. But Embiid has the ability to draw Jordan out from the basket on defense.

The battle on the boards should be a fun one with these two tonight.

No Nowitzki

Fans won't get to see Dirk Nowitzki in action for perhaps the final time at Wells Fargo Center. Nowitzki (rest) is out for the Mavs.

Nowitzki is in his 21st season suiting up with the Mavericks and this is thought to be his last. Against Boston on Friday, with the game in the bag, the fans chanted, "We Want Dirk!" and Rick Carlisle put him back in the game.

We unfortunately won't get any of those moments tonight at Wells Fargo Center. 

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