Things have felt off in Sixers land of late. The team is 2-2 in its last four games, but the two wins were a sloppy overtime win against the woeful Orlando Magic, and Wednesday’s night close four-point win against Cleveland, where the Sixers had to come back after blowing a 17-point lead. You could chalk it up to the group learning to co-exist with James Harden, except the starters have looked fine for the most part. It’s the Sixers bench that has been outscored, 140-46, over the last three games, collectively looking like five Greg Monroe’s in a Game 7.
Thad Young, Lou Williams and the rest of the Night Shift aren’t walking through that locker room door, so Philadelphia will have to soldier on, starting tonight against the Dallas Mavericks at home. The Mavericks won the previous meeting between these two clubs last month in Dallas, 107-98, with All-Star Luka Doncic recording 33 points, 13 rebounds, and 15 assists. Matisse Thybulle has had some good moments against Doncic in the past; the Sixers will need a strong four-quarter effort from Young ‘Bulle in slowing down the Mavs’ franchise star. They’ll also need to do better against the Dallas zone that plagued them in the February contest; the addition of James Harden has certainly helped the Sixers in combating that curveball from opponents.
Dallas is playing tremendously well of late. The Mavericks have won three straight games and eight of their last nine. Like Philadelphia, Dallas also made a big move at the trade deadline, shipping out Kristaps Porzingis and a second-round pick to Washington for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans. Bertans has been a bit player off the bench, but Dinwiddie looks rejuvenated in his new home.
The long-time Brooklyn Net is shooting 50 percent from the field since arriving in Dallas, averaging 17.9 points per game, which would only trail his career-best season average in 2019-20. He comes in having hit back-to-back game-winning threes. Head coach Jason Kidd has opted to go a lot of minutes with a three-point-guard lineup featuring Luka, Dinwiddie, and former two-time national champion Jalen Brunson. Considering the Sixers can often times struggle against one opposing ball-handler with self-creation abilities, three at once could be tough.
Ultimately, though, victory will likely be determined by how well the Sixers contain Doncic, who will undoubtedly get his to some degree in the midst of an All-NBA season; it’ll be whether “getting his” means 25 points or 35 points. Of course, the Sixers have the MVP favorite on their side, and Dallas doesn’t have anyone we should worry about slowing Joel Embiid from his usual 30-plus-point evening. Hopefully, Joel’s latest questionable tag for back soreness is just another precautionary designation. The odds for tonight’s game place the Sixers as three-point favorites. We’ll see if that holds and they can get this tough three-game homestand off to a good start.
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