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Mavericks vs. 76ers Preview: 3 things to watch as Dallas takes on Philadelphia

You have to beat the contenders to be a contender

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks put a much-needed win in their column with a road win against the Indiana Pacers, but now head to much more challenging terrain as they take on the 76ers in Philadelphia. The 76ers, though, are on a three-game losing streak of their own and will no doubt be eager to get back to winning.

It has the making of a star-studded matchup – that is if the team's respective stars are able to suit up. The struggle to get Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving on the floor together has been well documented as both battle through injuries, and it’s a similar story for Philly, with Joel Embiid and James Hardin missing their last game against Denver.

Cornered animals

Dallas finds itself in an unenviable position. Both Embiid and his coach have been making use of the bully pulpit to the benefit of Embiid’s MVP campaign. Combine the three-game losing streak with having his name in the mud after missing an MVP head-to-head against Nikola Jokic, and you can count on the 76er’s superstar being motivated to put that nay-saying to rest.

And a hyper-motivated MVP-caliber monster of a post scorer is not what a Dallas squad, hanging on to postseason dream by their fingernails, needs right now. That said…

The dual 40-point game from Doncic and Kyrie that led the Mavs to a 133-126 victory the last time these teams met is at least some reason for hope and a reminder of what these two can do on the court together.

It’s the threes, stupid

Over the last 15 games, the Mavericks have the highest three-point shooting percentage… in wins.

In games they’ve won, they’re shooting 48.2 percent. That’s nearly four full points more than the second-place Hawks with 44.4 percent. The 76ers are in a similar, but not quite as drastic, boat. They own the seventh-best mark in the league with 43.1 percent. On the flip side, Dallas shoots the three at just 34.8 percent in losses, compared to Philly’s 33.3 percent.

On the one hand, it’d be nice if Dallas could manage to win a game without having to shoot nearly 50 percent from distance just to win a regular season game, but on the other hand, they have the ability to light it up as few other teams can.

What is dead may never die

Whatever happens, at least we’ll have some clarity. A loss means it’s back to the Tankathon mines, manifesting Dallas’ first-ever move up in the NBA Draft lottery, and image-boarding a top-4 pick into the 2023-24 Maverick starting lineup.

A win? Against a motivated team with championship aspirations playing their two stars? On national TV during prime time? Now that’s the kind of thing that inspires belief in a way that beating a Pacer’s squad missing four of their five starters just can’t.

Either way, the important thing is this: the team can’t hurt us anymore.

How to watch

You can broadcast or stream the game on ESPN at 6:30 CST.