Ice-cold second half dooms Sixers in loss to Mavs: Likes and dislikes
The Sixers (30-18) hosted the Dallas Mavericks (26-23) on Monday. Philadelphia wanted to rebound from Saturday's loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Dallas wanted to snap a two-game skid. The Sixers went ice-cold in the second half, suffering a 118-102 defeat on their home floor.
Before we get to the game, some notes.
The Mavericks were without the services of Dereck Lively II, who has a nasal fracture.
Dante Exum was out with bursitis in his right knee.
Greg Brown III is on a two-way assignment with Dallas' G League affiliate and was not available.
Jason Kidd started Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, Josh Green, Derrick Jones Jr., and Maxi Kleber.
The Sixers will be without the services of Joel Embiid for the foreseeable future, as the team announced on Sunday that he will undergo a corrective procedure to address a meniscus injury in his left knee this week.
De'Anthony Melton remained out as he nears a return from a stress response to lumbar spine soreness.
Nico Batum was out with a strained left hamstring.
Robert Covington remained out with a bone bruise in his left knee.
Kenny Lofton Jr. was not available due to personal reasons.
Nick Nurse started Tyrese Maxey, Kelly Oubre Jr., Danuel House Jr., Tobias Harris, and Paul Reed.
- Philadelphia led for the overwhelming majority of the first half for two reasons. First was rebounding. With Embiid out and Maxey's regular minutes compromised due to foul trouble, there was basically no margin of error. You felt that urgency when shots went up on both ends. The Sixers did an admirable job of locking down the defensive glass, Mo Bamba securing five rebounds in 10 minutes of play.
Everyone hustled when the ball popped off the rim on offense, beating out-of-position or sleeping Mavericks to the vicinity to keep possessions alive for Philadelphia. Patrick Beverley reeled in two offensive rebounds by being in the right place at the right time. Jaden Springer quite literally ripped one out of Doncic's hands just as the ball landed. Oubre gathered a couple of loose balls out of the air and maintained his stride to the rim for finishes.
- In order to create opportunities for defensive rebounds, you have to catch Dallas on a bad shooting night or defend really well. Both happened in the first half. The Sixers were extremely aggressive in their scheme, getting aggressive when Doncic and Irving drove. Philadelphia did a great job of disrupting the driving lanes, getting hands in to pry the ball loose and create scrambles.
The Sixers wisely identified Jones Jr. as the weak link in Dallas' offense, doing everything they could to isolate that side of the floor so that the Mavericks had no choice but to pass to their teammate for open threes off the catch. The luck went the Sixers' way, Jones seeing all of his attempts clank off the rim in the first half.
His mindset changed, and Jones became a driver instead of a shooter. And, honestly, that was probably what Philadelphia wanted. Jones is not known for much of anything on offense, let alone good passes on the move through tight windows. The Sixers shut down his angles to the rim, daring him to make plays for his teammates. Even when Jones completed his passes, they were well off the mark, ruining his teammates' catch-and-shoot setups and giving the Sixers time to recover to the ball.
The strategy to dare Jones to make plays as a driver was a brilliant one, and it severely diminished Dallas' perimeter shooting. That also meant that the Sixers had their fair share of chances to hold the Mavericks to just one shot on offense, and they largely took care of business there.
- One of the really nice developments for any individual player on the team has been Harris using his shot fake off the dribble. He's using it mostly when attacking out of a face-up or post-up, but it's been extremely effective in getting defenders in the air. But, it all means nothing if he doesn't know how to use it. However, Harris actually has the instincts to find and use the angle created by the airborne defender. He had a beautiful step-through and score on the move early in the second quarter.
- Maybe the best thing the Sixers had going in the first half was Springer, who clamped up Doncic to the point of frustration. His low center of gravity is a headache for any ball-handler because he gets right up into their space and makes it very difficult to safely put the ball on the floor.
Springer's strength is also a big asset on offense. He's not polished on that end, but he knows how to use his shoulders and arms to go right into defenders' chests. His touch at the rim is also somewhere between passable and good. Dallas tried to hide Doncic on him, which just served as an opportunity for Springer to go right at him inside. His energy on both ends was a big part of why the Sixers built a double-digit lead in the second quarter and led at halftime.
- I'm an enormous advocate of just calling the foul by the rule, without influence of reputation or context. But, since that's not how it works, I thought it was disgraceful that Maxey was issued his third foul in the middle of the first quarter. You know the Sixers are running out of rotation players, Maxey is an All-Star, and he's off to a hot start. Unless it's egregious, put the whistle away and let the guys play.
- When the shooting went cold (like, Minnesota in February cold) on offense, the only chance the Sixers had of staying in this game was neutralizing Dallas' shooting. But, that went down the drains pretty early in the third quarter. The Sixers are not good at thwarting dribble penetration, and all the Mavericks had to do was wait for heavy close-outs (and, boy, did they come) and attack off the dribble. If it wasn't a drive to the rim, it was a kick-out to an open shooter, and the lead fell into a deficit, and the deficit multiplied. All she wrote.
- If Maxey wants foul calls, he's going to have to actually attack into the chest of the defender in his way instead of fading to the side. I get he had foul trouble all night and there was probably fear of drawing an offensive foul. But, his output was not even close to good enough. If you're going down, go down shooting.
The Sixers (30-19) will host the Golden State Warriors (21-25) on Wednesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Eastern time. You can catch the game on ESPN.
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Gallery Credit: Josh Hennig