The Sixers (34-25) visited the Dallas Mavericks (34-26) on Sunday. Philadelphia wanted to build on Friday's victory over the Charlotte Hornets. Dallas wanted to rebound from Friday's loss to the Boston Celtics. Tobias Harris scored 28 points, Tyrese Maxey added 24, and the Sixers outlasted the Mavericks on the road, 120-116.

Before we get to what I saw, some notes.

Contextual Notes

The Sixers were without the services of Joel Embiid, who continues his recovery from a procedure on the meniscus in his left knee.

De'Anthony Melton has a stress reaction in his lumbar spine bone and was out.

Robert Covington remained out with a bone bruise in his left knee. Cameron Payne has an illness and was not available.

Jeff Dowtin Jr. - who the Sixers signed on Saturday after waiving Kenny Lofton Jr. on Friday - and Terq Smith are on two-way G League assignments with the Delaware Blue Coats and were out.

Nick Nurse started Kyle Lowry, Tyrese Maxey, Buddy Hield, Tobias Harris, and Mo Bamba.

The Mavericks were without the services of AJ Lawson, Greg Brown III, and Brandon Williams, who are on two-way assignments with Dallas' G League affiliate.

Jason Kidd started Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, Josh Green, PJ Washington, and Dereck Lively II.


- tyrese maxey taking command after early 11-0 deficit

- Extremely lopsided starts usually aren't indicative of how the whole game will go, so Philadelphia's early 11-0 deficit didn't have to be a DEFCON scenario as long as the Sixers didn't panic. After a timeout to calm the waters, Maxey was the first to respond. It set the tone for the rest of the half.

Maxey called his own number three straight trips up the floor - not only sending a message to his teammates, but challenging himself to be the player they need him to be when adversity hits. His willingness to punish poor response time on ball screens is often the best indicator of how he feels about his game on any given day. Green was slow getting over a high screen on one possession in the middle of the first quarter, and Maxey felt empowered to trigger a pull-up 29-footer just five seconds into the shot clock. The very next possession, he went coast to coast for a floater.

Those seven points across three consecutive possessions hardly saved Philadelphia from a blowout, but it might as well have refreshed the game and served as a wake-up call for the rest of the Sixers.

It was a dominant first half for Maxey - 19 points on 13 shots in 19 minutes - because of his persistence in the paint. His ability to manipulate Dallas by changing gears on the move was as surgical as it's been in weeks. The Mavericks had no one capable of staying in front of him as he shifted from one speed to another. Maxey got downhill against Dallas' below-the-level ball screen defense at will and penetrated the paint for layups and floaters all half long. He and Harris, almost alone, were why the Sixers went from spotting Dallas a double-digit lead basically at tip-off to controlling the game for the remainder of the first 24 minutes.

- Speaking of Harris, an incredible response to his own rather putrid start to the game. Having watched him for five years now, I'm out of ideas to explain why he's so hit or miss. His skill level is above what role players typically offer, but he just doesn't demonstrate a star-level mentality. A slow start often snowballs for him, but he picked it up in the second quarter to follow Maxey's first-quarter lead.

I think the key to unlocking his finishing is finding him spaces to get downhill momentum against matchups who are either lacking in length or in vertical athleticism, or both. The problem, of course, is that that archetype is few and far between in this day and age.

Regardless, all that matters for our purposes in this space is what he did on Sunday. Harris had great feel on drives, using his upper body strength to keep bigger players at bay while he attacked the rim. Nurse slotted him around the foul line on an ATO play, getting Harris what was effectively a chip-shot jumper as one of the first looks in the action. Once that went down, it was as if his midrange game had been properly calibrated for the rest of the day.

He sized up defenders of all sizes in the post, getting to his sweet spots for a slew of difficult midrange jumpers to compliment the finishes at the rim in the second quarter. He preserved what the Sixers had built in the first quarter after the Mavericks threatened to erase the entire deficit early in the second frame.

Harris didn't disappear after the first half, either. When the Sixers were looking for someone to answer Dallas' push late in the fourth quarter, it was the veteran forward who shushed the momentum. Harris laced a corner three and got a floater to drop in back-to-back possessions to help the Sixers breathe again. 28 big ones to lead the way for Philadelphia.

- Paul Reed has responded beautifully to being relegated to the bench. The Charlotte game was encouraging, but the Mavericks - who aren't even all that good - are a whole different league of challenge for what Reed's job is. Whether it was Lively, Gafford, or a smaller Maverick acting as the five, Reed was excellent. He didn't settle for ridiculous jumpers, instead accruing his scores around the rim as a post-up big or a lurker in the dunker's spot. Most importantly, he did a lot of the dirty work for the Sixers. He did his part to limit Dallas' second-chance opportunities, and even created some additional plays for Philadelphia. And if he didn't corral the ball cleanly, he dropped to the floor to secure the rock. He's playable but difficult to trust when he tries to do too much. When he lets himself play a simplified role, Reed is an excellent backup big man.

- While everyone else held their breaths when Maxey departed after hitting his head on a fall in the third quarter, Kelly Oubre Jr. perked up. His only score through the first half came on free throws. He ostensibly saved it all for the second half, when he took it upon himself to make sure there would be no change in momentum following Maxey's brief exit. He didn't take ridiculous shots or force anything, helping maintain Philadelphia's organization. When it came down to manufacturing scores without Maxey, he settled down and used his size and athleticism. Oubre attacked baseline for a contested dunk and then fought off contact to get into the paint side of the floor for finishes at the rim. Maxey hitting his head on a knee as he fell to the floor could've easily served as a turning point in this game. Oubre had other plans.

- I'm sure there's some luck involved to this because Irving is so skilled at the rim, but, man, I've never seen a defense give him so much trouble in the paint. He missed a number of shots that are usually automatic for him inside, and turned the ball over on the drive a couple of times. He was still awesome by basically any standard in the NBA, but those gaffs add up in a four-point loss.


- Hield commits some of the worst fouls I've ever seen. The one to end the first half was preposterous. No need to go for a steal on a pass when the clock favors you anyway. He's also a frequent offender in committing slap fouls at the rim, doing nothing to prevent the shot and all but guaranteeing a three-point opportunity. It's bizarre because he has good moments as an on-ball defender, so it isn't like he's a total space cadet on that end of the floor.

The Sixers (35-25) will visit the Brooklyn Nets (24-36) on Tuesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Eastern time. You can catch the game on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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