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Joel Embiid, Sixers gear up for big road test vs. Luka Dončić, Dallas Mavericks

A pair of All-NBA caliber international talents square off as Sixers seek bounce-back victory

Dallas Mavericks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

If the most recent 106-103 home loss to the Bradley Beal-less Washington Wizards left a bad taste in the Sixers’ mouths, they’ll welcome a tough road test against the the Dallas Mavericks, looking to put the last one behind them and get back into that win column.

If you subscribe to the notion that this club gets up for big games (like when they showed out vs. Steph Curry’s Warriors or Ja Morant’s Grizzlies) and maybe lets their guard down a bit vs. softer competition, then you might expect the good Sixers to show up in Big D.

The NBA and its fans are keenly watching the ongoing Ben Simmons stalemate, as one of the biggest trade dominoes simply won’t topple. But the healthy and available members of the Sixers have put in work. Philadelphia has quietly rattled off wins in 15 of their last 19 games.

On Friday, they’ll have to do it without the services of Shake Milton, who hasn’t played since Jan. 3rd. Milton suffered a back contusion which has sidelined him for some time now. Fans will recall, Milton actually sustained a stress fracture in his back during his pre-draft process back in 2018. Furkan Korkmaz is also out with knee soreness. And Seth Curry is listed questionable with back spasms.

Like the Sixers, the Mavericks are no pushovers. Mark Cuban’s squad is similar in that it boasts one of the league’s brightest international stars. Luka Dončić, the Slovenian sensation, landed on the First Team All-NBA team last season. Swaggy L just made his third consecutive All-Star game as a reserve. He’s averaging 26 points, 8.8 rebounds, 8.9 assists, and 1.2 steals. Cool Hand has seven triple doubles this season, including five in just his last 13 games. Still just 22 year-old, in his fourth season, he’s had one of the best starts to a career in history.

But Dončić won’t have his full complement of weapons alongside him tonight. Sterling Brown, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis are all out.

Jason Kidd’s squad has the 18th best offensive rating, and the fifth best defensive rating. By contrast, the Sixers rank 12th offensively, and and 10th defensively.

The Sixers may have their work cut out scoring against this stalwart top five defense. Dallas is merely average protecting their paint, so Joel Embiid may look to feast around the hoop, when he’s not drawing fouls.

The Sixers are just one game out of first place behind the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat, both tied for first. They’ll look to build their resume by beating the fifth seed out west in their own gym. Dallas is 7-10 vs. the East, and 29-23 overall. They’re 16-10 at home. Philadelphia is a stellar 17-9 on the road.

Luka Dončić’s Mavericks started slowly but are staking their claim as one of the West’s top teams. The Phoenix Suns followed by the Golden State Warriors have solidified their position on top, and the Memphis Grizzlies have settled into third-best-team-of-the-conference territory. But with the Utah Jazz’s recent swoon (Donovan Mitchell’s squad having now won just 3 of their last 10 games), the door is still ajar for the Mavs to grab one of the top four playoff seeds out west.

Dallas had a stretch where they won 10 of 11 games back in Jan. before coming back down to earth a bit. Not playing their best ball right now, they just lost back-to-back games to the lowly Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder.

One fun story line this week came when we learned that Mavs’ owner Mark Cuban is not over the Seth Curry trade. Daryl Morey got the best of him there bringing the three point sniper to South Philly in exchange for Josh Richardson and a second round pick.

Philadelphia is going to have to slow down the Mavs heliocentric guard in Luka. Dallas is going to have to limit the unstoppable force that is Joel Embiid. Both players figure to be in that MVP race for the foreseeable future. This should be a really fun one.

Game Info

Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Dallas Mavericks

When: 10:00 pm ET, Feb. 4, 2022

Where: American Airlines Center

Watch: ESPN

Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

Follow: @Liberty_Ballers