The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Philadelphia 76ers by a score of 111-97. The Mavericks played with energy and kept the game close at first, but eventually the talent of the 76ers opened a lead they never gave back. The Mavericks scrapped a little in the third quarter and closed the gap, but it wasn’t enough to fight back for a win and Philadelphia pulled away by the early fourth quarter.
Luka Doncic wasn’t able to pull off another brilliant performance, scoring 19 points to go along with three rebounds and four assists. Philadelphia’s length obviously bothered him, closing passing lanes that are usually open. Without another dangerous scoring threat on the floor, the 76ers were able to focus completely on Doncic and snuff out most of his offense.
There’s a few things to unpack about this loss, but it essentially comes down to the 76ers having much better players than the Mavericks. Joel Embiid will almost definitely finish in the top three in MVP voting, and if the season ended now he’d win it. With Embiid anchoring the defense, Ben Simmons was free to run amuck on the court, giving the Mavericks headaches while collecting two steals and several deflections.
If the Mavericks are going to compete with the best teams in the NBA, they’ll need to stay healthy and get more playoff caliber players. It’s as simple as that. Here are three things from a pretty predictable loss.
The Mavericks usually protect the ball, averaging only 11.6 turnovers per game, third in the NBA. Tonight against the 76ers they turned the ball over 22 times. There were plenty of dumb mistakes, like fumbling the ball out of bounds, or stepping out on the baseline. But the Philly defense caused most of those turnovers. They attacked the Mavericks ball handlers and deflected passes with active hands. The 76ers ended up with 11 steals. More than that, they forced three shot clock violations. The 76ers absolutely strangled a Mavericks offense that’s been humming along nicely in February.
The front court is a disaster.
There’s no other way to say it: the Mavericks’ front court rotation is an absolute catastrophe. Kristaps Porzingis has vanished into some nether region of indecipherable injuries. Maxi Kleber is one of the best defenders, but he’s obviously suffering from the effects of COVID-19 or poor conditioning due to the time off, or both. Dwight Powell can’t defend anyone now, and he’s lost his pop on offense. Willie Cauley-Stein missed a wide open dunk and then fumbled the ball out of bounds tonight. Boban Marjanovic started tonight because there were no other options. He somehow finished 3-of-11 from the floor.
Of course they got demolished by a team with one of the most electric and versatile centers in the league. They were outscored 50-26 in the paint and that’s not a fluke. Donnie Nelson has to figure out something in the front court, because it’s costing the Mavericks wins. What they have currently isn’t working.
Luka is on his own.
With Porzingis out for the third straight game, someone needed to step up and help ease the scoring load on Doncic. No one did. Josh Richardson was second on the team in scoring, notching 13 points. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 12, and Jalen Brunson had 11. Even more concerning, no one on this roster seems to be able to effect the game without scoring, outside of Kleber on defense.
It’s unreasonable to ask Doncic to put up 40 point triple-doubles night after night in order to win. Porzingis needs to come back and play like the second star he’s paid to be and do it consistently. Hardaway has to be more aggressive in games like this. He ended with only four 3-pointers attempted. Richardson was brought in to be a significant player on offense and defense, and so far that hasn’t worked out.
Unless the current roster can elevate their play, there’s going to be a lot more losses like this when the Mavericks play the top tier teams in the league. And that’s a shame, because Luka can’t work his magic if the game is out of reach by the start of the fourth quarter.