Mavericks 122, Sixers 102: Disappointment in Dallas as Sixers fail to pick up the slack without Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler



No Joel Embiid (load management/left knee), no Jimmy Butler (back tightness), and a seemingly endless stretch where every shot you throw up clangs off the rim is not a good recipe for a win.

Without two of their stars, the Sixers fell to the Mavericks on Monday night, 122-102, dropping to 49-28 on the season. They’ll conclude their three-game road trip Wednesday night against the Hawks (7:30 p.m./NBCSP).

Here are observations from the loss: 

• Jonah Bolden started again in place of Embiid and he couldn’t build on his excellent performance against the Timberwolves. Bolden had two points, seven rebounds and an assist. He wasn’t great defensively either and was a team-worst minus-26.

The Sixers didn’t mind the matchup of Marjanovic, the NBA’s tallest player, against the second tallest — 7-foot-2 Salah Mejri. It was a rare instance in which the opposition couldn't regularly pull Marjanovic away from the rim and target him on defense. Marjanovic had five points and seven rebounds in 13 minutes.

• The Sixers hit a brutal cold spell of shooting in the second quarter, missing three after three during a span of over eight minutes without a field goal to wrap up the first half. Though they missed plenty of open looks, the Sixers also settled for a bunch of jumpers, straying from their early success with Ben Simmons in the post.

It didn’t help that their defense couldn’t string together stops or force a turnover. Rookie Shake Milton had an especially difficult time keeping his man in front of him. 

The Mavs won the second quarter, 41-18. 

• With Simmons guarded at times by 6-foot-3 Villanova product Jalen Brunson and 6-foot Trey Burke, we saw a good amount of “Explosion” — the Sixers’ largely improvisational off-ball movement around Simmons in the post.

Simmons made several impressive passes out of the post, including a bullet from the left block to JJ Redick for a three on the right wing in the first quarter.

He wasn’t as effective down low as a scorer. Though he did get to the line 11 times, making seven, Simmons missed several easy attempts near the rim and shot 5 for 15. 

• There was also a clear emphasis on getting Tobias Harris opportunities in the post early. As usual, Harris was at his best in the first quarter, with nine points on 4 for 6 shooting.

Harris had a strong third quarter at the point, running plenty of middle pick-and-rolls with Marjanovic. It’ll be interesting to see if Harris can develop the same sort of synergy with Embiid in the pick-and-roll once the Sixers’ All-Star center returns.

Harris finished with 25 points.

• Life is generally good for the Sixers when Redick is hitting shots.

He did that Monday night, scoring 21 points in the first half, 26 in the game. 

But nobody else could make a three-point shot — the rest of the team shot a combined 2 for 22 from long range. 

Coming in, the Sixers had been 10-2 this season when Redick scored 23 or more points. 

• Zhaire Smith checked in during the third quarter with the game slipping away, and fellow rookie Haywood Highsmith saw the floor in garbage time. Highsmith shot 1 for 3, scoring his first NBA points since his debut on Jan. 8. Smith, scoreless in nine minutes, displayed his athleticism with a chase-down block late in the fourth. 

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