The Philadelphia 76ers ranked as one of the NBA’s most interesting teams coming into Wednesday night's game against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. Behind Joel Embiid, the Sixers had won 10 of their last 16, with Embiid averaging 23.4 points, 9.1 boards and 2.6 blocks per game in the month of January. The problem was here however, was that the 76ers were left without their star big man due to a knee contusion. And yet, there were the Mavs, not playing well enough in the first quarter against a beatable team ...
And so coach Rick Carlisle huddled up his Mavs, sketched out a "re-set button'' on his clipboard, instructed Seth Curry to "push the button'' ... and next thing you know, Dallas took down Philadelphia, 113-95.
"That was just a funny thing he did in the timeout to get me going,'' Seth said of Rick's trick. "It was a cute tactic."
The absence of Embiid allowed the Mavs to easily push around the Sixers inside on both ends of the floor, as they won the rebounding battle 51-39, while pulling in 15 offensive boards, and scoring 46 points in the paint.
Perhaps the biggest benefactor of the weakened Sixers front court was Salah Mejri, who had the best game of his career in a Maverick uniform. Mejri ended the game with 16 points, 17 boards (eight offensive) and a block on 7-9 shooting, in just 21 minutes of action. (Dirkie anyone? Vote away!)
Mejri completely dominated former third-overall pick Jahlil Okafor, who was held to just one rebound and 16 points on 7-16 shooting. For a center, especially one as drafted as highly as Okafor, one would think that rebounding is a pretty important skill to have. But for whatever reason, Okafor (6-11 275 pounds) just doesn’t have it, and the Mavs took full advantage of that.
The media asked Salah, "What was working for you tonight?"
Mejri's response: "Everything, I think, no?"
Curry was the Mavs' leading scorer, accumulating 22 points, six assists and four steals, while Harrison Barnes added 16 points and seven boards. The combination of Barnes inside/high-post game, and Curry’s outside game, has proven to be a very difficult attack for opposing defenses to stop.
In fact, in the month of January, the two combined to average around 34 points a game together. ... with Curry as the button-pusher.
Said Carlisle: “I actually think tonight was very much below (Curry's) standards. He had four turnovers in the first quarter which is uncharacteristic. But, he hit the reset button in the second quarter and from then on he played his game. I think you are looking at points and stuff like that, but him having four turnovers is just not him. But we had a reset button in the huddle and he pushed it in the second quarter and we cleared everything out and started over. From then on he played well.”
Elsewhere, Devin Harris had another solid outing with 14 points on 3-5 shooting, while Yogi Ferrell had 11 points and five dimes (and a dive) of his own.
Defensively, the Mavs did a solid job of not allowing the short-handed Sixers to get going on offense, allowing just four guys to score in double-figures, with only Ersan Ilyasova and the aforementioned Okafor scoring more than 10.
Overall it was a stellar performance from the Mavs (19-30) who have now won three in a row and eight of their last 11 games, and seem to be getting ever better as the All-Star Break approaches.
Moving forward, the Mavs will face a stiff defensive test on Friday as they travel to the West Coast to take on Damian Lilllard, C.J. McCollum, and the Portland Trailblazers. In their two previous matchups, Lillard has averaged 35.5 points and four assists, on 53.7-percent shooting in 38 minutes per game.
How does Dallas do better this time around? Make sure to pack the re-set button, we suppose.