The Dallas Mavericks had won two straight games this week after having a full week off last week due to the Texas 'snow-pocalypse'. However, with Kristaps Porzingis missing his third straight game because of what the team is calling "back tightness," Luka Doncic and the rest of the Mavs weren't able to extend the winning streak to three games, as MVP candidate Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers bully-balled Dallas on Thurday in Philly, 111-97.
The difference in this game was the play of each teams' starters. Both the Mavs and the Sixers had 46 bench points in this one, meaning that Philadelphia's starters outscored Dallas' starters by 14 points. Despite only shooting 5-of-20 from the field, Embiid finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and four assists while going 11-of-12 from the free throw line. Simmons contributed 15 points and seven rebounds, and former Maverick Seth Curry, who was traded to Philly for Josh Richardson over the offseason, also finished with 15 points. Curry shot 6-of-9 from the field and went a perfect 3-of-3 from deep.
“(It’s) nothing personal,” said Curry afterwards. “I just think they made a bad business decision.”
Until Richardson starts making more of an impact on a consistent basis, or until the Mavs decide to give rookie Tyler Bey, who was also acquired in that trade, a real chance to carve out a role in the rotation, it’s hard to argue with Curry’s statement.
Coming into this game, Doncic had been on an MVP-like tear, averaging 34 points, eight rebounds and eight assists while shooting 48% from deep in Dallas' recent 6-1 stretch to bring the team back to .500. After hitting a game-winning three at the buzzer against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night, though, Doncic struggled against Simmons' tenacious defense, finishing with 19 points, four assists and three rebounds. The biggest struggle for Doncic (and the Mavs overall) in this game was taking care of the ball. Doncic had seven turnovers by himself, and the Mavs as a whole finished with 18 turnovers to the Sixers' seven.
"We just didn't play with energy," said Doncic. "I think that was the point. It didn't look like us. We just didn't bring the energy tonight."
The only other Mavs starter to score in double-digits was Richardson, who chipped in 13 points and six rebounds while going 5-of-11 from the field. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jalen Brunson scored 12 and 11 points, respectively, off the bench.
After falling back under .500 with a 15-16 record, things don't get much easier for the Mavs, as they now prepare to take on the star-studded Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night. Dallas only has three more games before reaching the All-Star break.
Will Porzingis finally make his return on Saturday? If so, it would definitely help throw a little bit of water on what has become a small fire with the swirling trade rumors. Stay tuned.
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