The Dallas Mavericks (43-26) fell in a tough matchup to the Philadelphia 76ers (42-26), 111-101. Luka Doncic finished with 17 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds while Jalen Brunson led the Mavericks with 24 points, four assists, and three rebounds. James Harden and Joel Embiid combined for 56 points which proved to be too much for Dallas.
Dallas started the game getting out to an early lead. Philly quickly picked up the pace before pulling ahead with a small lead. Marquese Chriss made his return tonight and entered the game halfway through the first. He had the tough assignment of picking up Joel Embiid, but I was encouraged to see him out there as I had questions about what kind of physical shape he’d be in. My questions were quickly answered as he reeled in an offensive rebound with Embiid on his hip before rising up with a ferocious slam. It was a solid welcome back moment for him.
Frank Ntilikina also got in the game early and quickly knocked down a three. It’s always good to see guys staying ready who don’t always get an opportunity night in and night out. His defense and effort will always be there, but having him knock down open threes with confidence is huge. Dallas struggled to close out the first half with a few unforced errors that the 76ers manage to convert on. The half ends with Dallas down 58-53.
Philadelphia comes out on fire as Georges Niang and James Harden combine for six threes in the second half. They maintained a double-digit lead for most of the remainder of the game. Despite Philly going on a lights-out shooting stretch, Dallas maintained their composure and effort. A lot of that should be credited to Spencer Dinwiddie and his experience as a veteran and a leader. The 76ers duo prove to be too much for Dallas to handle tonight as they fall 111-101.
Three observations from tonight.
As I mentioned before, the Mavericks did a good job staying focused and maintaining their composure even with Philadelphia continuing to keep their foot on the glass and Dallas’ shots not falling. This is a sign of growth and experience for a team that has struggled in scenarios like this in the past. These are the types of things that they can control and that will come up big in a long playoff series.
More Frank please
We’ve seen glimpses of Frank Ntilikina in these last few games and I like what I’ve seen. Dallas’ guard trio of Doncic, Brunson, and Dinwiddie has been fantastic, but up until recently, Trey Burke was the guard that would get the nod to fill in the gaps. I would like to see Ntilikina get the nod moving forward as his defense brings the momentum changing plays that will make his minutes more valuable than the offensive scoring Burke provides. When the playoffs arrive, I’m not sure he will have had enough opportunity to show that he deserves to be a part of a playoff rotation, but for right now, I’d like to see him as the fourth guard in the depth chart over Burke.
Don’t let the loss overshadow Brunson’s night
Brunson was Dallas’ leading scorer tonight finishing with 24 points, four assists, and three rebounds. He shot an incredibly efficient 10-of-14 from the field and 2-of-3 from three. Dinwiddie has gotten lots of praise recently and rightfully so, but do not forget about JB. He once again showed that he can step up on a night where Luka’s shots aren’t falling and score against a solid defensive team (Philly is currently ranked 10th in defensive rating).
Tonight was a tough loss for Dallas but going up against an MVP candidate and a locked-in James Harden is a tough uphill battle. We’ll see if the Mavericks cab turn it around tomorrow as they face off against the Charlotte Hornets tomorrow for another 6:00 p.m. tipoff.
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