After two bad losses to two of the worst teams in the NBA, the Dallas Mavericks get a chance to host the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers are currently sitting in the three seed in the East, right in the thick of a tough conference race despite not having the services all year of their point guard Ben Simmons.
The Mavericks are going to have to buckle down in a big, big way if they want to bounce back and get on track by defeating Philadelphia. Here’s three things to think about prior to the game.
How on Earth will Dallas limit Joel Embiid?
The All NBA center is having another monsterous season, scoring nearly a point per minute, pouring in 29 points in just 33 minutes of action. He’s doing it from everywhere, hitting threes at a 36% clip, scoring in the paint, the midrange, and getting to the line a ton. The Mavericks will likely start Maxi Kleber on Embiid, but there’s not much any Maverick can do individually. Dallas will have to have a team based approach to Embiid, getting the ball out of his hands while hoping none of the other Sixer players can pick up his scoring load.
Dallas defense, are you there?
Related to the Embiid question is the concept of whether the Mavericks are any good at defense anymore. After a 20 game run where they looked quite dominant, Dallas got walloped by the Warriors and haven’t looked the same since. Obviously, Kristaps Porzingis missing time is a key part of this issue, but Dallas played good defense without him during the early part of January.
Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson getting it together on the defensive end would help, both were real bad against the Thunder. The three point defense has evaporated too, but I noted that luck was playing a part in that in the winning streaks.
The Mavericks look tired though. The minutes totals Jason Kidd has been playing guys lately is a bit concerning, but when a team is down two rotation players and the additional options (think Josh Green, etc.) aren’t lighting the world on fire, he has to keep going back to the well with guys playing a lot already.
Is Luka Doncic going to get a call? Is Jason Kidd going to stick up for his star?
Being a refs guy stinks. But the fact is, Luka Doncic has shot just 10 free throws in the last two contests while shooting 55 times. This is one of the league leaders in drives too. Doncic got hit early and often against the Thunder and there simply weren’t calls. I’d say it affected his game on offense but that’s not true. It certainly affected his focus on defense, but the bottom line is he should be getting more calls.
Part of that is the quiet Jason Kidd needing to raise his voice to the referees. When Doncic was taken out mid air by Lu Dort early in the contest Wednesday, he should’ve gotten a technical foul arguing with a ref. He did not. He owes it to his team to maybe raise a bit of a stink.
How to watch
National TV game! Yay! The Mavericks don’t lose national TV games (that is not true). Dallas plays at 9 pm CST Friday night on ESPN.