The Philadelphia 76ers will look to bounce back from their first home loss of the season when they host the Dallas Mavericks on Friday.
The Sixers won their first 14 home games and were the last team in the league to lose at home when they were topped 108-104 by the Miami Heat on Wednesday.
Joel Embiid produced his 18th double-double with 22 points and 19 rebounds while Tobias Harris added 20 points. Even though the Sixers fell behind by 16 in the fourth quarter, they rallied within two points in the final 30 seconds. Miami’s zone defense befuddled the Sixers much of the game.
“I feel like in the fourth quarter, I was a little bit aggressive and my teammates found me,” Embiid said. “In the first half it wasn’t the case, so we have to do a better job at being locked in from the beginning.”
The Sixers missed 21 of their first 28 shots from beyond the 3-point arc before connecting more often in the fourth. The double-digit deficit ultimately was too much to overcome.
“It’s definitely frustrating, but at the end of the day, it’s kind of on us because we essentially missed those shots,” Harris said. “I don’t think it was until the fourth quarter where we actually started finding ways to break the zone.”
One positive from the loss was the all-around performance by Ben Simmons, who scored 17 points and played tenacious defense as the Sixers rallied late. Simmons’ defense has been praised by head coach Brett Brown all season.
“I think that Ben is first in our league as a defensive player,” Brown said. “I’m probably biased because I am his coach, but he has to be considered amongst the elite and maybe one of the better Defensive Player of the Year candidates, in my opinion.”
The Mavericks will enter the matchup with an impressive 18-9 record, but they are expected to be without standout guard Luka Doncic for a third consecutive game as he recovers from a sprained right ankle. Head coach Rick Carlisle said Doncic will join the team in Philadelphia but it was “highly unlikely” he would play.
“He is responding well to treatment,” Carlisle said. “He is progressing well.”
Doncic has been spectacular this season, averaging 29.3 points, 9.6 rebounds and 8.9 assists to go along with eight triple-doubles. He was named Rookie of the Year last season.
Without Doncic, the Mavericks fell 109-103 at home to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday.
Kristaps Porzingis paced the Mavericks with 23 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out, while Seth Curry scored 20 points. Point guard Jalen Brunson, who won two national championships at Villanova, tied his career high with 11 assists. Brunson also added 10 points and seven rebounds, yet two late-game turnovers doomed a comeback.
“Most importantly, I’ve got to stop turning the ball over so late in the game,” Brunson told reporters. “Two straight games turning the ball over late — that’s on me.”
Without Doncic, Porzingis was even more active as he played 38 minutes and made 8 of 19 shot attempts. Despite the loss, Porzingis said he believes the team is beginning to find its identity.
“As a group, we’re now just getting to know each other on the court,” he said. “We have so much room to grow.”
–Field Level Media