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Sixers control second half, roll past Mavericks for 111-101 victory

Joel Embiid led the way, but this was a team-wide win.

Dallas Mavericks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers returned home Friday night to take on the Dallas Mavericks. Despite being listed as questionable with back soreness for the second straight game, Joel Embiid suited up.

After a defensive battle through three quarters, James Harden came alive in the fourth quarter, ending with 24 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds, as the Sixers slammed the door shut on the Mavs. Embiid had 32 points, eight rebounds and four assists on 66.8 percent true shooting. Here are some thoughts and observations from Friday’s 111-101 win over Dallas.

First Half

  • Philly looked a little flat to start offensively, needing over three minutes just to get its first points on the board. Tyrese Maxey made a couple of hustle plays on both ends of the floor to get things going.
  • The Sixers threw a lot of zone looks at Dallas in the first quarter. Embiid and Thybulle did a pretty good job defending Luka Doncic in the pick and roll, at least until Thybulle had to sit with two fouls. The Sixers held Luka to 17 points on 5-of-20 shooting.
  • They did not, however, do a good job of containing Jalen Brunson. The Villanova product made his first seven shots, putting up 15 first-half points.
  • DX Joel is back, and if you’re not down with that...
  • James Harden has certainly had better shooting stretches than the one he’s currently in, but his pick-and-roll chemistry with Embiid is continuing to look better. The pair generated quite a few easy baskets in the second quarter. Harden also played some of his best defense in a Sixers jersey so far and was very disruptive. He ended with two steals and one block.

Second Half

  • To some success, the Sixers threw a zone at Dallas coming out of the half. They were able to disrupt Doncic by throwing multiple defenders at him. Embiid was especially excellent defensively this game. He’s been at his best this season when he can roam, almost like a free safety, around the paint.
  • Many good looks from three-point range were generated in the third, but they didn’t start to fall until Georges Niang heated up with about three minutes left in the quarter. Harden especially struggled beyond the arc, but it was good to see Niang hit three looks from downtown in the quarter after slumping the last couple games.
  • The one part of Embiid’s game that seems to have regressed from earlier in the season is his ball-handling. It hasn’t been as sharp since Harden arrived, likely because he’s felt a lot less need to do it. Even so, six turnovers were rough, especially the two unforced ones.
  • Harden took over the game at the start of the fourth. His drives through the defense led to multiple DeAndre Jordan dunks. He found his shot, hitting two stepback threes to ignite the crowd in the process of scoring 10 straight points. The Beard had 11 of his 24 points over this stretch. With Embiid on the bench, the Sixers’ lead grew from three to 13.
  • It was very weird to see the Mavericks waive the white flag so early. It was just a 10-point game with two minutes to go, a lead the Sixers are certainly capable of squandering. Nevertheless, they pulled their starters first.