The Sixers looked lost at the onset of this one. No rhythm with Covington finally back in the fold, poorly timed passes, drops and point-blank mistakes. Dallas absolutely trounced them in the first. Don't be fooled by the 28-15 first quarter score - it was much, much worse than that. Like, 2013 Sixers bad. I saw the ghosts of Darius Johnson-Odom and Adonis Thomas.
The Mavs had firm control of the game for a decent chunk of the second quarter as well. The Sixers rattled off a 16-2 run on the backs of T.J. McConnell and Jerami Grant, and it kept in the game before the half, but it was strangely (or maybe not so strangely) at the expense of Jahlil Okafor. Brown went smaller, and trotted out a lineup of McConnell, Sampson, Thompson, Grant and Noel that gave the aging, more physically limited Mavs fits on both sides of the ball for a semi-extended period.
They came out in the third quarter - i.e., The Quarter of Doom - firing for once, which was refreshing to see. Once they started getting into sets and letting Okafor freelance a little more and get his game going, it felt like offensive opportunities really opened up more for everyone else. The problem has been, as others have noted, that the Sixers don't run the offense through him in a timely manner. What they did tonight was, especially early on, run weaves around the perimeter into other off-ball actions, and basically unsuccessfully scramble in circles looking for open shots until dumping the ball into Okafor with four seconds on the shot clock and praying he can get them a bucket. That didn't work. The team's third quarter offense though, did, to an extent.
The fourth quarter was tight-knit, and they hung with them until the last 90 seconds or so when Dirk unsurprisingly iced the game. It was actually a really nice collective defensive effort on Dirk (and for the team as a whole, by the way), who shot 6-of-16 from the field, but as Derek Bodner noted, any funk he's in goes out the window when he's getting good looks in crunch-time. That's just who he is.
Overall, it was a great effort from the Sixers that fell short (again). Not only can an NBA team not win when it turns the ball over 27 times - have I not mentioned this yet? They turned the ball over 27 freaking times, you guys - but when you don't have the talent to compensate for, like, five mistakes, let alone twenty-freaking-seven, there's really no looking back.
- It was another rough showing from Nik Stauskas tonight, who went 0-for-4 from the field and 0-for-2 from distance before being pulled in the first half. He ended up only playing 16 minutes. Obviously exercising some patience here would be wise, but it is a bit discouraging how poorly he's shot the ball with miles of space in front of him when that's supposed to be his distinguishable NBA-caliber skill. They desperately need him to get on track.
- Isaiah Canaan was forced to take over the duties of the position he's actually supposed to play tonight, and that really hurt him, as Brown pointed out post-game. Phil Pressey's absence hurt the Sixers. Yes, they need Marshall and Wroten back.
- I loved what I saw from Jerami Grant and JaKarr Sampson tonight. They're both improving exponentially as ball-handlers, and are becoming legitimate problems to stop from getting to the rim. It's only more impressive that they're able to put the ball on the floor and get to the hoop with the limited spacing they have for driving lanes, with Okafor and Noel often occupying masses of space around the basket.