The Philadelphia 76ers finished their Monday night win elated and eclipsed 120 points. Wednesday, the team couldn’t sustain the point barrage, losing 115-93 to the scalding Dallas Mavericks on the road. With a depleted roster, sans Joel Embiid and Robert Covington, there was a silver lining that was illustrated before the game started. (Brett Brown, postgame, said that Covington’s injury is “fluid.”)
It was the first start for Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot as a Sixer, albeit he didn’t make a profound impact. The former first-round pick encountered errors on both ends the floor, passes intercepted and rawness on the defensive end, but it was a necessary challenge for the 21-year-old SF.
Finishing with seven points (3-of-5 shooting), four rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes, there is value in Brett Brown awarding TLC the starting spot. It shows Brown’s confidence in his developing talent and there’s naturally productive film to work with playing against starters. Luwawu-Cabarrot was the only Sixers to shoot 50 percent or greater from behind the arc (minimum: two attempts) as the Sixers shot just 6-of-22 (27.3 percent) from three.
Another Sixer filling in for an injured starter, Jahlil Okafor failed to convince he’s deserving of the majority of minutes at the center amid Embiid’s absence. His power game worked in the first half, bullying the Mavericks’ centers into an unfortunate defensive position near the basket. However, the jumpers lacked polish and the failure to consistently body his man in the post led to a woeful performance from the field.
It’s become apparent that Okafor could’ve separated himself from Nerlens Noel as the backup center when Embiid returns with productive shooting outings. Wednesday’s 7-of-16 performance from the field, coupled with an inability to impact elsewhere (one rebound, zero blocks) could have Noel supplanting him. Noel looked spry, finishing alley-oops and trailing the break in transition, but both centers had difficulty with second unit center Salah Mejri.
Dallas exploited mismatches and their rotation doesn’t fit conventional standards, but Mejri is the team’s traditional center and he had a breakout performance Wednesday. Crashing the glass, eight of his 17 boards were offensive, and throwing down strong dunks over the Sixers defenders, he thrived. Mejri made apparent the lacking toughness of the frontcourt when Joel Embiid sits. Also, he was aided by Dallas’ usual catalyst Harrison Barnes
Barnes was a versatile threat for coach Rick Carlisle, utilizing screens to create space en route to 16 points (6-for-13 FG), seven rebounds and two steals. Playing small ball power forward, he presented mismatches consistently. Regularly, Sixers guards were asked to stick him in the post.
Curry, along with Devin Harris (14 PTS, 3-of-3 from deep), served as Dallas’ three-point option and, like Barnes, dropped numbers throughout the stat sheet. Finishing with a game-high 22 points (8-for-14 FG) and contributing six assists plus four steals, Curry dominated the individual matchup against Nik Stauskas and regularly shifted into the passing lane for thefts.
The Sixers (18-30) don’t have an extensive resting period as they travel to San Antonio tomorrow for a back-to-back.