That sure was something! It didn’t quite go as expected! The Mavericks had been riding a hot winning streak since the All-Star Break, and were primed to give the Sixers a strong battle. I expected a loss, and would have been happy to see the tank strengthened against a surging opponent. Counter to my expectations, the Sixers demolished an overmatched Mavericks team that looked worse from the opening whistle.
In my preview, I predicted that there would be two centers, one from each team, who came out to this game fired up and ready to go. I was right! Only if you swapped out one high-profile center for another one.
As expected, Nerlens Noel came out strong, even if he experienced some understandable jitters. He flubbed a couple of alley-oops that he’ll normally slam home in the first quarter, but once he took care of his nerves, he settled in to a very strong game. On defense, Nerlens showcased what the Sixers will be missing after having traded him away.
The Sixers began the game by abusing the Mavericks’ poor perimeter defenders, and exploiting Dirk’s porous rim protection with all kinds of drop-offs and back cuts. After Noel entered the game, the tenor changed. Sixers players double pumped at the rim instead of finishing strong, and he disrupted multiple plays, nearly creating three steals and forcing a dead ball turnover on Jahlil Okafor. After sporting an early 10 point lead, the Sixers closed the quarter with five scoreless minutes, due, in large part to Noel.
Another large contributor to that run was Jah himself, who, contrary to my earlier premonition, came out as flat as could be.
Jah: 2 fouls, 3 TO's, 0 points, -14.— Liberty Ballers (@Liberty_Ballers) March 17, 2017
While Jah wasn’t up for the matchup, Richaun relished the opportunity to show what he could do. The big man received the starting nod, as Brett Brown was worried about Okafor’s ability to chase Dirk around on the perimeter, and Richaun seized the moment.
Holmes made his first 7 field goal attempts, and aggressively took the game to Nerlens when the two were matched up. He wasn’t the same caliber of disruptor on defense, but he put in a strong performance that played an enormous role in putting the Sixers up 11 going into the second half.
The real story of the game, though, was the Sixers’ backcourt locking up the Mavericks’ perimeter players. The Mavs’ starting unit was rendered completely ineffective against top notch ball pressure from TJ McConnell, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Robert Covington. The trio created fastbreak point after fastbreak point, and it allowed the Sixers to open up a huge lead partway through the 3rd.
TLC: +38— Liberty Ballers (@Liberty_Ballers) March 18, 2017
Is that good?
After failing to make a mark in the first half, Dario Saric and Robert Covington took over the game in the 3rd, with the two going off from deep, combining for some quality passes, and adding in their usual aggressive rebounding.
Meanwhile, Justin Anderson (an afterthought coming into the game) was up for the game in a big way. He hit his first two three pointers, played aggressive defense, and threw down some ridiculous dunks against his former team en route to matching a career high with 19 points. It was a really nice night for a player who is fun to root for, even if he’s nowhere near the caliber of player that Noel is. It felt great to see him contribute so positively and gain confidence because of it.
After the Sixers went up by 30, the Mavericks essentially gave up, and it became showboating time. Sergio Rodriguez threw some ridiculous passes, and the Sixers’ lead ballooned all the way up to 43 points.
It was a banner night for our guys, even as one of the symbols of the original Process looked foreign in an opposing jersey.