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Sixers return home for first matchup against Dallas Mavericks

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Philadelphia 76ers v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers went 1-1 in their mini road series against the Toronto Raptors, and now they’re returning home to face the 15-15, 9th-seed Dallas Mavericks.

The only player on the latest injury report for the Sixers is Seth Curry, who’s probable to play due to left ankle soreness.

Luka Doncic is having another fantastic season as the driving force of the Mavs. His defense has improved and he’s recording career-highs in points (28.9) and assists (9.2) per game, while shooting 34.9 percent from three (on 7.3 attempts) with a 58.4 True Shooting Percentage.

Role players like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jalen Brunson are playing well, but outside of Doncic, there haven’t been too many positives for the Mavs this season. Their offense is down to 11th (although they have warmed up recently against some weaker opponents — they’re 7-3 in their last 10 games), while their defense has been seriously struggling and ranks just 25th. It’s safe to say they miss Seth Curry’s offensive impact as well. The play of Kristaps Porzingis has been the biggest disappointment for Dallas, though. He had to have surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee in October, and his defense and mobility haven’t been close to what they were so far this season.

The Mavs’ frontcourt could be heavily depleted against the Sixers on Thursday, too. Porzingis (lower back tightness) and Maxi Kleber (left ankle sprain) are both questionable, which could result in extra minutes for Willie Cauley-Stein, Dwight Powell and James Johnson. Joel Embiid would have already been in a good position to go to work against the Mavs’ weaker bigs, especially with Porzingis’ defensive decline, and this could make things even easier for the big fella.

The matchup to watch in this game will be Luka Doncic vs. Ben Simmons. There’s only so much you can do against Doncic’s ability to create space for drives or step-backs and his remarkable passing and manipulation. He’s a playmaking savant and toys with opposing defenses as a pick-and-roll creator, which is going to be a good test for the Sixers’ defense and communication. But Simmons’ size, speed and strength makes him as well equipped as anyone in the NBA to guard Doncic. At the other end of the floor, it will be interesting to see how Simmons attacks a weak Mavs defense inside, and if he can continue his aggressive offensive surge.

If Simmons can somewhat contain Doncic, the Sixers should have a good shot to win this game given the Mavs’ recent play, especially if Kleber and/or Porzingis are out.

Game Details

Who: Dallas Mavericks vs. Philadelphia 76ers
When: 7:00 pm ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: TNT
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Follow: @Liberty_Ballers