The Dallas Mavericks handed the Philadelphia 76ers just their second home defeat of the season Friday, winning 117-98 at Wells Fargo Center.
The Sixers have dropped three games in a row, tying their longest losing streak of the campaign. Philadelphia (20-10) slipped to 5.5 games back of the Eastern Conference's top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, who improved to 25-4 with a 111-104 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.
The Mavericks are tied with the Houston Rockets for the fourth-best record in the Western Conference (19-9). They were without Luka Doncic for the third straight game as he nurses a sprained right ankle.
- Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Mavericks: 22 points, 18 rebounds, three blocks
- Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Mavericks: 27 points, four rebounds
- Joel Embiid, C, Sixers: 33 points, 17 rebounds
- Ben Simmons, PG, Sixers: 12 points, six rebounds, eight assists, three steals
Team Effort Compensates for Doncic's Absence
With their leading scorer unavailable, the Mavericks didn't look for one player to shoulder the load. Rather, Dallas got contributions across the board. Boban Marjanovic went scoreless in four minutes, but every other player had at least eight points.
And despite the length on the Sixers, the Mavericks out-rebounded Philadelphia 49-46.
Kristaps Porzingis was unable to contain Joel Embiid on defense yet contributed in other areas. Porzingis controlled the defensive glass and was the go-to scorer for his team when it needed to lean on one player.
The 2017-18 All-Star has had an up-and-down year, not hitting the heights many expected. Doncic's injury could be a blessing in disguise if it helps Porzingis rediscover his best self.
The Mavericks took a 35-28 lead after the first quarter thanks in large part to Tim Hardaway Jr., who had 19 points in the opening frame. He was 7-of-8 from the floor and 5-of-5 from beyond the arc.
Hardaway cooled off over the remainder of the game. His hot start helped get Dallas started on the right foot, though.
Sixers Offense Struggles Again
Much was made of the Miami Heat's using a zone defense to stymie Philadelphia en route to a 108-104 victory Wednesday. The zone is seldom deployed in the NBA, but it undoubtedly gave the Sixers problems, as it exacerbated their biggest weakness.
While the Mavericks didn't copy the Heat's blueprint, head coach Rick Carlisle used Miami for some inspiration as Dallas utilized a matchup zone for stretches.
The results were largely the same, as Philadelphia struggled from long range, shooting 10-of-34 on three-pointers.
Embiid was one of the Sixers' few bright spots. He shot 12-of-24 from the floor and connected on three of his seven three-pointers. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, Ben Simmons (12 points) and Josh Richardson (10) were the only other players to score in double figures.
Though hitting the panic button isn't advisable, head coach Brett Brown appears to have some serious issues to iron out. The more trouble his team encounters against zones, the more likely Philly's opponents are to rely on it.
And that was a big question mark entering the season. Nobody can be too surprised that a roster built around Embiid and Simmons has a hard time spacing the floor.
General manager Elton Brand has exhausted the bulk of his trade assets, but reinforcements are needed ahead of the Feb. 6 trade deadline.
The Sixers will be back on the court Saturday to host the Washington Wizards. The Mavs will wrap up their two-game road trip Sunday against the Toronto Raptors.