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Mavericks vs. 76ers Recap: 3 observations from a 116-108 loss against Philadelphia

Losing is back on the menu

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night by a score of 116-108. Luka Doncic led the way for Dallas with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. Joel Embiid paced the Sixers with 25 points of his own.

Dallas came out with a ton of energy, getting great looks on offense and competing hard on defense. Unfortunately, they missed a lot of the wide-open threes they generated, preventing them from building a large early lead. Kyrie Irving started to cook and the Mavericks briefly got their lead to double digits, but a Sixers run late in the first quarter closed the gap. The Philly bench then caught fire, and they briefly went in front; but Dallas responded, and a strange four-point play at the buzzer from Josh Green helped them take a 37-28 lead into the second quarter.

The Sixers began the second by raining down threes on the Maverick defense, erasing most of the lead in the first two minutes. Dallas steadied themselves, Tim Hardaway Jr. got going, and the Maverick lead was built back to seven halfway through the quarter. Stellar play from Dallas saw this lead grow to as many as 12 points, but a late run from the Sixers negated much of that effort; the Mavericks had to settle with a 62-57 halftime lead.

After a lengthy post-halftime delay to adjust a wonky net, Dallas and Philly traded mini-runs early in the third. Things started to go south for the Mavericks in the middle part of the frame, as their sloppy play and inability to guard without fouling allowed the Sixers to surge in front. But again, Dallas had an answer; big threes from Hardaway and Jaden Hardy helped them re-take the lead in short order. The two teams continued to trade blows, with the Mavericks heading into the fourth quarter clinging to a 91-89 advantage.

The final period opened with both teams trading three-point possessions, with Hardaway hitting a pair of triples to respond to go-ahead buckets from Philadelphia. Things quickly devolved into chaos, as strange plays and weird energy took over the Well Fargo Center. Dallas slowly watched the lead slip away; the Sixers went in front and started to pull away with five minutes to go in regulation. The Mavericks tried to mount one last rally, but it was not to be. They lost the game. It’s incredibly upsetting, because they played so well for so long in this one and really needed this win to keep their playoff hopes alive. So it goes. Here are three observations from this one.

Clutch time woes continue

Per, the Mavericks entered tonight’s game 25-25 in the whopping 50 “clutch” games they’ve played this year, a .500 winning percentage. I honestly can’t believe it’s that high. This team continually folds down the stretch of games time and time again. Dallas was in control for much of this one, and even held the lead for just about half of the fourth quarter. But Philly ended the game on a 16-5 run that saw the Mavericks go 2-of-9 from the floor and turn the ball over four times. You just can’t win games like that, especially against great teams on their home floor. Luka Doncic was the only Maverick to score in the final six minutes. They looked lost and confused. In game number 77 of the season, it’s unacceptable for these issues to still be doing them in. Coach Jason Kidd deserves a lot of the blame for failing to fix it.

Dallas held Philly’s superstars in check

Joel Embiid is likely going to win the MVP award this year. His 25 points and nine rebounds on 8-of-17 shooting would be a great night for most players, but for him, it was a mediocre performance. James Harden scored just 15 points (with 12 assists) on 4-of-14 shooting. Both star players came into the game nursing injuries and were clearly not 100%, especially Embiid. But credit must be given to the Maverick defense, who understood the assignment and competed hard, at least for 3.5 quarters. Again, it really hurts that they couldn’t bring this one over the finish line, because I think they did things on defense that you could build on.

Lose the three-point battle, lose the game

Our editor Josh Bowe published a story last week that details just how reliant the Mavericks have been on outshouting opponents from three since the Kyrie trade, Dallas actually shot it very well tonight! They went 18-of-46, good for 39.7%. But the Sixers were even more efficient, going 17-of-36 (47.2%). Role players George Niang and De’Anthony Melton combined to go 9-of-13. Dallas actually made one more three than Philadelphia, but as Josh highlights in his piece, it’s not enough to make more threes. The Mavericks have to win the three-point battle handily to have a chance. They failed to do so tonight and predictably lost the game. It’s a tough way to go about your business.

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