After cruising to a 117-93 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday, the Philadelphia 76ers are finishing their road trip with their second game of the season against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.
The only Sixer on the latest injury report is George Hill, who remains out while finishing his recovery from surgery on his right thumb. In the Mavs’ 119-117 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, Maxi Kleber (lower leg soreness), Tyrell Terry (personal reasons), and the recently acquired JJ Redick (right heel soreness) were all out. There hasn’t been a new injury report from the Mavs yet, but Kleber’s potential absence on Monday would help out the Sixers. He’s a quality defender, and a vital part of Dallas’ performance at that end of the floor with his mobility, switchyness, and help protecting the rim.
The Sixers put together a strong performance in their last game against Dallas on February 25, winning 111-97. It’s an even better result when considering the fact that Joel Embiid had an off night offensively, shooting just 5-of-20 from the floor. The Sixers’ defensive effort turned the game in their favor, led by Ben Simmons completely hounding Luka Doncic. Simmons pressured Doncic on the ball and around screens, denied hand-offs and passes, contested his drives, and teamed up incredibly well with Joel Embiid in pick-and-rolls to contain Doncic’s attacks inside.
Doncic finished the game with only 19 points on 13 field goal attempts and 4 assists to 7 turnovers — far from the impressive 28.5 points and 8.7 assists he’s been averaging this season. If Simmons can put together a similar defensive masterclass on Monday, it could be a deciding factor in giving the Sixers an edge for another win.
A few plays from Ben Simmons' absolutely dominant defensive first half: pic.twitter.com/w4Vrlcfjms— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) February 26, 2021
The Mavs’ defense has been far better in recent weeks after a rough start to the season and they’ve actually been on the rise since their loss to Philly. They’ve gone 14-7 since, ranking 6th in offensive rating, 7th in defensive rating, and 5th in net rating at +7.7. The Mavs haven’t faced too many top opponents, but have picked up wins against Denver, the Clippers, Utah, and Milwaukee (albeit without Giannis Antetokounmpo) in this stretch. As the Mavs will be completing a back-to-back on Monday, though, the Sixers will have the advantage of more rest.
One change that will give the Sixers an extra test is the availability of Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis missed the first game in February, but will be active this time to give the Mavs a far more dangerous shooter to pull Embiid and Dwight Howard away from the rim. Porzingis’s presence will require the Sixers to be even more locked in and aggressive outside when guarding pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops led by Doncic.
If Simmons and the Sixers bring the same defensive energy they had in February, and if Embiid can keep returning to form offensively, they should have a solid chance of picking up another win. Given how tough their schedule is over the next two weeks, they could certainly use it.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Dallas Mavericks
When: 7:30pm ET, Monday, April 12
Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia, ESPN
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic