3 observations after the Doncic-Irving duo scored 82, the Sixers cannot come back originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
In a game that seemingly had everything but top-notch defense, the The Sixers it went down Thursday night in Dallas.
The Mavs’ star guards were brilliant in a 133-126 victory at American Airlines Arena.
Luka Dončić he had 42 points on 13-for-22 shooting and 12 assists. Kyrie Irving he scored 40 points on 15-for-22 shooting and six assists.
Despite making 57.7 percent of their field goals and 44.4 percent of their three-pointers, the Sixers fell to 40-22 this season. Joel Embiid scored a team-high 35 points and shot 13 for 21 from the floor. Tyrese Maxey had 29 points, James Harden 27.
Dewayne Dedmon (left hip soreness) and Davis Bertans (left calf strain) were sidelined.
The Sixers’ next game is Saturday night in Milwaukee, where they will try to end the Bucks’ 16-game winning streak.
Here are some observations on their loss to the Mavs:
Maxey starts, attacks dominate
Maxey started back-to-back games for the first time since mid-January. De’Anthony Melton returned to the bench.
As we touched on on Wednesday, the case for bringing Maxey back into the starting lineup was pretty strong. Given that Melton has enough experience from the bench and he is versatile, instinctive, naturally adaptable player, there didn’t seem to be much risk in restarting Maxey. Also, Thursday’s starters entered the game with a plus-22.4 net rating this season, by Glass cleaning, so it’s not like the Sixers have to cross their fingers and hope things work out here without evidence. Yes, Maxey and Harden aren’t the Sixers’ two best defenders, but it’s a talented lineup and a logical one to start games with.
The attack ruled the night early in Dallas; The Mavs opened the game 8 for 11 from the field, and the Sixers 7 for 11. In the first six minutes, Harden collected five assists, and also knocked down one three-pointer and two free throws. (The Sixers, who entered the game tied for first in the NBA with an 83.2 free-throw percentage, eventually ended the team’s streak at 31.) Maxey picked up the ball on Game 1 and Harden charged downhill after “Chicago action,” passing to Embiid for a pick-and-roll layup. Maxey scored with a nice shot off the board, Tobias Harris looked sharp, and the Sixers offense was flowing.
However, the team couldn’t make many stops. PJ Tucker started for Dončić, who scored 25 points in the first half. Maxey pulled Irving, who scored 10 of his first 20 for the Mavs. The eight-time All-Star got a wide 3-pointer when Maxey had to flag a turnover Dwight Powell and Dončić kicked the ball into the corner. Irving later hit a pull-up three with Embiid in drop coverage after Maxey couldn’t navigate a screen or recover in time to contest his shot.
The Sixers finished with 38 points in the first quarter for the second straight night. Fourteen seconds later Christian Wood entered the game, drained a 3-pointer against the Sixers’ zone.
The hot duo looks unstoppable
At the end of the first quarter, Harden and Dončić had a fun mini-shootout.
After “good defense, great attack”, Dončić’s three-pointer is a step back Jalen McDaniels, Harden replied — and then some. He hit a long-range jumper over Wood through contact to make it a four-point game. In a “flawless” first quarter, Harden scored 16 points with four field goals and seven assists.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers on again George Niang into his rotation, and the 29-year-old made a second foul on Dončić by entering the attack. However, his jumpers still haven’t fallen. Niang went 0 for 2 from three-point range and is now 4 for his last 23 points.
The Sixers played with 11 men before the 12 minutes expired. Paul Reed fell to the ground after a fantastic game on Wednesday against the Heat, committing three fouls in five minutes. He fouled Wood on a three-point attempt and allowed him to score a drive and a layup. Montrezl Harrell replaced Reed.
Melton couldn’t neutralize Irving, who showed how dangerous he can be both on and off the ball. On a positive note, Melton scored a dozen points in the second quarter. This helped the Sixers prevent the Mavs from opening up a big lead, although it was very difficult to keep up with Dallas. The Mavs took a 71-67 lead on their final possession of the second quarter when Doncic drove a baseline shot to Tucker and created space for a short jumper with a subtle hesitation move.
It’s easy to say that the Sixers should have been more aggressive against Doncic earlier and had more defensive diversity. For example, Embiid struggled to defend against a pick-and-roll late in the second quarter, and Dallas’ possession ended in a missed field goal Reggie Bullock three. However, Doncic and Irving possess so many tools to counter anything the opponent throws at them; both are used to picking defenses that flash, press hard and become desperate.
The Sixers ended up shuffling their plans often, but no real solution materialized. Bullock hit two 3-pointers early in the third quarter and the Mavs’ lead grew to 20 points when Irving split Harden and Embiid on the perimeter before making a tough, hanging hoop against Maxey at the rim. About a minute and a half later, the Sixers switched Embiid to Doncic, and he drilled a step-back 3-pointer over him.
Before Thursday, the most 3-pointers the Sixers had made in a game this season was 20. Dallas surpassed that mark in the third quarter, finishing an incredible 25 for 48 from long range. While this was clearly a poor defensive game by the Sixers, much of it is simply two great guards on their A-games facing the team on the second night of a doubleheader.
The Sixers make the Mavs sweat
Another Doncic putback gave Dallas a 25-point lead late in the third.
Even for a team that scored so freely, it was not a comfortable lead. The Sixers made a big comeback early in the fourth quarter, scoring the first 15 points of the period. Maxey had 10 of those points and rattled the Mavs with his energy and shooting as the leader of a four-man bench lineup. Shake Milton, the Sixers’ seventh man off the bench, added a leaner and McDaniels made an and-one, quick layup after Maxey’s steal. Maxey’s runner cut the Dallas lead to 110-106.
Reed also played a positive role, embracing an up-tempo style and recording a block and a steal, but everything for the Sixers revolved around Maxey. His teammates were focused on feeding the hot hand, and it worked well because of Maxey’s knack for scoring goals that continue to seem to catch opponents off guard.
At that stage, a Sixers victory did not seem at all impossible. The Mavs have lost five of their previous six games, including a home loss to The Lakers on Sunday in which they blew a 27-point lead.
On Thursday, they had enough composure (and jump shooting) to avoid a complete collapse. Three-pointers by Irving, Doncic and Bullock increased Dallas’ advantage to 122-108.
Still, the Mavs were pretty relaxed in the final few minutes, and the Sixers pulled within five points on Embiid’s layup with 31 seconds left.
Ultimately, as is the case with nearly every team in a 25-point second-half hole, the Sixers didn’t have enough magic left. The Mavs made it to the final buzzer and the Sixers fell to 1-1 on the five-game road trip.