3 observations after Sixers lose to Mavs, suffer sixth defeat in last seven games

3 observations after Sixers lose to Mavs, suffer sixth defeat in last seven games originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Sixers have one game left before Thursday afternoon’s trade deadline and they’ve lost six of their last seven.

The team suffered another shorthanded defeat Monday night at Wells Fargo, falling to a 118-102 loss to the Mavs.

Dallas star Kyrie Irving posted 23 points and eight assists. Josh Green scored 20 points and Luka Doncic had 19.

For the Sixers, Kelly Oubre Jr. had 19 points and Tobias Harris added 17. Tyrese Maxey recorded 15 points on 6-for-16 shooting and seven assists.

The Sixers were missing Joel Embiid (left knee meniscus injury), Nicolas Batum (left hamstring strain), De’Anthony Melton (lumbar spine stress response) and Robert Covington (left knee bone bruise).

Paul Reed was also “under the weather” for a second straight game, Sixers head coach Nick Nurse said pregame. Reed again started in Embiid’s place and posted two points and six rebounds in 22 minutes.

Embiid, who’s set to have a procedure this week on his knee, watched from the Sixers’ bench. The Sixers dropped to 4-11 this season without Embiid and 30-19 overall. Dallas improved to 27-23.

The Sixers will host the Warriors on Wednesday night. Here are observations on their loss to Dallas:

Strong response to Maxey’s foul trouble 

Maxey got the Sixers off to a bright start, scoring seven quick points and nailing a pull-up three-pointer to lift his team to a 9-3 lead.

Harris was also valuable immediately in his return from an illness. The veteran forward picked up a steal on the game’s first play and scored the Sixers’ second hoop with a mid-range jumper. As expected, the team looked more well-rounded and capable of running decent half-court offense with Harris available again.

Maxey’s foul trouble temporarily derailed the Sixers’ original game plan, though. Less than four minutes into the night, Doncic drew the second foul on the Sixers’ All-Star guard with a banked-in, and-one leaner. Nurse kept Maxey in, which backfired when he got whistled for a charge with 5:33 left in the first quarter.

Though Maxey had to sit at that stage, the Sixers fared well without him. Oubre was the lone Sixer to play the entire first quarter and had a good period, providing nine points and solid on-ball defense against Dallas’ star ball handlers. Harris was smooth in the mid-range and useful as a facilitator when the Mavs threw extra attention at him. He began 5 for 6 from the field and notched four first-quarter assists.

The Maxey-less stint wasn’t lengthy — he came back in to start the second quarter — but it was absolutely positive for the Sixers to outplay the Mavs while their best healthy player sat.

Extended stint for Springer 

The Sixers blitzed Doncic frequently and benefited from many missed jumpers by the other Mavs in the first half. Dallas opened 2 for 11 from three-point range. Tim Hardaway Jr., who entered the night averaging 18.3 points, shot 0 for 8 from the field.

While the Sixers’ outside shooting wasn’t sparkling either (8 for 29 in the game), they gained a significant advantage on the glass.

Dallas has been a weak rebounding team this season — bottom-six in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, according to Cleaning the Glass — and the Sixers took advantage. Patrick Beverley crashed hard early in the second quarter and converted a put-back layup. Jaden Springer flew in to snag another offensive board later in the second, creating an extra possession that eventually resulted in a Beverley floater. Overall, the Sixers grabbed 16 offensive rebounds to the Mavs’ eight.

Springer was great in the second quarter and deservedly played the final 9:11 of the period. He defended Doncic tightly, nabbed three steals, and chipped in opportunistic scoring.

With steadier minutes, Springer seems to be developing his sense for when he should be especially aggressive on defense. Springer’s foundation of on-ball sturdiness also means that, as long as he avoids excessive fouling, he can help the Sixers even when he’s not making tons of explosive highlight plays.

No run-stopping free throws

Green replaced Hardaway’s usual scoring for the Mavs. The fourth-year wing reached 18 points with a three-pointer early in the third quarter, cutting the Sixers’ lead to three points.

A difficult Irving jumper over Springer at the midpoint of the third put Dallas up 69-68. As Irving and the Mavs scored more regularly in the third quarter, the Sixers’ inability to draw foul shots was problematic. Embiid, who leads the NBA with 11.9 free-throw attempts per game, can often disrupt opponents’ rhythm and halt runs by getting to the foul line. No other Sixers possess that quality.

Maxey searched for calls on several unsuccessful drives. He only drew three free throws in the game and the Sixers went 10 for 14 as a team before garbage time. They attempted no free throws in the second half until the 7:16 mark of the fourth quarter. The Sixers likely had reasonable gripes on a few no-calls, but it’s obvious that foul-drawing can no longer be considered a reliable team strength with Embiid out.

Grant Williams and Jaden Hardy capped a 10-0 Dallas run early in the fourth quarter and the Mavs soon pulled away.

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