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Sixers look to bounce back at home vs. Luka Doncic-less Mavs

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Minnesota Timberwolves v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers are 13-4 over their last 17 games, but have dropped two straight after losing to the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday and the Miami Heat on Wednesday in their first home defeat of the season. The Heat threw a zone defense at the Sixers to mess with their offense, and as the Sixers struggled to make the many open looks they created and lacked consistent defensive energy, a late surge in the fourth quarter wasn't enough to secure a win.

On Friday night, the Sixers have a chance to bounce back at home against a depleted Dallas Mavericks team.

Luka Doncic has taken a leap from rookie sensation to MVP candidate this season. He’s been incredible, averaging 29.3 points, 9.6 rebounds and 8.9 assists per game with a 61.8 True Shooting Percentage to lead the NBA’s best offense. The Mavs rank 1st in offensive rating at 116.3, while the 2nd-place Milwaukee Bucks sit firmly behind them at 114.3.

Fortunately for the Sixers’ chances to win on Friday night, though, Doncic has missed the last two games and will be out due to a moderate right ankle sprain.

But the Luka-less Mavs still can’t be taken lightly. Rick Carlisle is an excellent coach and knows how to adjust to the personnel he has. And despite losing 109-103 to the Boston Celtics in their latest game, the Mavs still rallied for an impressive 120-116 road win over the Bucks on Monday without Doncic. The Mavs held a double-digit lead for a lot of the game, and did a good job containing the team’s supporting cast as Giannis Antetokounmpo went off for 48 points. Spells of low energy have hurt the Sixers at times this season, and they need to avoid that trap if they don't want to be caught off guard by the Mavs.

Dallas’s strong bench has been huge for them this season, helping the team record a +6.5 net rating when Doncic is off the floor. However, the Sixers will again receive some help in this area, as Seth Curry (lower back tightness) and Delon Wright (sprained finger), two of Dallas’s valuable backup guards, are both listed as questionable to play.

No Sixers are currently listed on the injury report for Friday’s game.

Dallas Mavericks v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Kristaps Porzingis has stepped up with a couple of his better games of the season in Doncic’s absence. Porzingis has averaged 24.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.5 blocks with 44.7/40/75 shooting splits over the last two games, and will be able to take on a more commanding role as the first option. At this point of the season — as he needs to keep developing chemistry with Doncic beyond serving as a talented spacer — this is probably where Porzingis can shine most.

The big matchup to watch will be how Al Horford and Joel Embiid handle Porzingis’s scoring arsenal and shooting (he has range well beyond the arc to keep defenders guessing).

The Sixers should be fired up after losing their perfect home record to Jimmy Butler’s Heat. The Sixers hadn’t lost back-to-back games since November 13 and 15, and have been dominant in Philly. At home, they lead the NBA with a stifling 99.7 defensive rating and have the 5th-highest net rating (+10.9).

With the Mavs missing Doncic and potentially a couple of key bench players, the Sixers’ extra talent, home advantage and defense — providing they’re engaged — should give them enough to win this one.

Game info

Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Dallas Mavericks

When: 8:00 PM ET

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia PA

Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia, ESPN

Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic

Follow: @Liberty_Ballers