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3 Things as the Mavericks visit the 76ers

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Dallas plays their final road game of the season against the surging 76ers.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Dallas Mavericks Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks (24-56) travel to the City of Brotherly Love to take on the Philadelphia 76ers (49-30) in a rare Mavericks Sunday afternoon game. The Mavericks’ head-to-head series against the Sixers serves as bookends to the season; the Mavericks first hosted Philly in the seventh game of the season, a game the Mavericks lost 112-110.

Though these teams are facing opposite realities, this game is of equal importance for both squads. Philadelphia, riding a 13-game win streak, currently sits in third in the Eastern Conference standings (a half game ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers). With the momentum of Toronto and the Boston Celtics getting beat up, locking in that three seed becomes vital. For the Mavericks, they continue to focus on developing their inexperienced players to determine who they may like to keep for next season, while also securing the best odds possible for next month’s lottery selection.

Here’s what to watch for, as we all inch toward the bitter end:

MoneyMot gets hot

Listening to the clamoring of the Mavericks masses, Rick Carlisle has opted to play two-way contract player Johnathan Motley 81 minutes over the last two games. In those games, facing the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons, he’s repaid the team by averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds, going 17-of-30 from the field.

Yes, the point in the season and the opponent need to be taken in to account. But production is production. He has miles to go to be a contributing player on a nightly basis. But the energy and effort he brings to the floor is valuable already. It’s hard to gauge what will happen next for Mot, after the season ends. But look for him to compete today against Philly, who will still be without Joel Embiid.

Your 2018 “rookie” of the year

It’s been a two-man race for rookie of the year for a while. Utah found a gem in Donovan Mitchell, who has helped carry Utah to playoff contention. But the leader from the start has been Philly point-forward Ben Simmons, on the roster for two years, playing in his first season.

Averaging 16 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists on the season, Simmons has upped his game with Embiid out, averaging a triple double that’s propelled the Sixers to this 13 game win streak. His outside shot is virtually non-existent, but the mismatches he automatically forces all over the floor has allowed him to be effective so quickly.

In the first matchup at the beginning of the season, Simmons put up 23 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Depending on the lineups Carlisle opts for, Dorian Finney-Smith may be the player tasked with trying to contain Simmons. DFS had a solid game Friday night, with 15 points and 10 rebounds (6-of-12 from the field, 3-of-6 from deep).

Tank you for playing

If you’re in to tanking and haven’t checked the standings on tankathon.com, then you aren’t tanking correctly. MavsMoneyball is giving you fair and balanced coverage of the tanking and non-tanking aspects of the season. But most MFFLs understand the reality that the Mavs are currently in.

The Mavericks have Philly to deal with, then an ultimate tank game to wrap up the year against Phoenix. Just as important is what Atlanta and Orlando (who sit on each side of Dallas in the tank standings) do in the final days of the season. It seems possible, considering their opponents, that Atlanta and Orlando could lose out — thus pushing Dallas back to fifth. But crazier things have happened.

How to watch

Tip off is set for noon Central and can be watched on FSSW or NBATV.