Outside of big numbers from Joel Embiid, not much to like about Sixers' performance in loss to Mavericks



Wells Fargo Center no longer seems to be such a fortress for the Sixers.

They fell to their second straight home loss Friday after beginning the year with 14 straight wins here, a 117-98 defeat to the Dallas Mavericks. Joel Embiid had a game-high 33 points and 17 rebounds.

Difficulties vs. a zone and lackluster defense were issues for the second straight game.

By the final few minutes, the crowd was chanting, “E-A-G-L-E-S.” They’ll hope the Birds fare better on Sunday against the Dallas football team. 

The 20-10 Sixers will look to snap their three-game losing streak Saturday night vs. the Wizards (7 p.m./NBCSP).

Here are observations from the loss: 

We knew it was coming … 

After the Sixers’ struggles Wednesday against the Heat’s zone defense, Brett Brown said pregame that he anticipated the Sixers would see more zone from the Mavs. 

Josh Richardson drained a three on the Sixers’ second possession vs. the zone, a positive early sign.

However, the Sixers’ offense went downhill from there. Like vs. Miami, the primary issues were labored ball movement and inability to make open threes. The Sixers started 2 of 11 from long range. 

Turnovers were also problematic. The Sixers had seven in the first quarter, and most of them fell into the careless category — ill-advised passes in transition, attempts to make exceptional passes when ordinary ones would have done the job and botched basic exchanges.

Time for Trey 

With the Sixers struggling to score and no perimeter bench player he tried offering much in the way of busting the zone, Brown inserted Trey Burke into the game late in the third quarter, Burke’s first action since Dec. 7 outside of a garbage-time stint in Brooklyn.

Brown has said he doesn’t like to “let players rot,” but Burke was nearing that point. Burke managed seven points in 12 minutes.

We'll see if this appearance was a one-off or an indication that he's back in the mix.

Something had to give 

Dallas entered Friday’s game with the top offensive rating in the NBA, and the second-most three-point attempts and three-point makes. The Sixers had allowed the fewest three-point attempts and makes.

Though the Sixers took an early 13-5 lead, Tim Hardaway Jr. helped the Mavs establish control in first quarter. He followed up a 4-for-17 performance Wednesday against the Celtics by scoring 19 first-quarter points on 7 for 8 shooting. 

Even without star guard Luka Doncic (right ankle sprain), Hardaway’s flurry, 22 points from Kristaps Porzingis and important contributions off the bench were enough for Dallas. The Mavs’ NBA-best bench outscored the Sixers', 37-27. 

The Mavs shot 14 for 33 from three-point range and 51.8 percent from the floor. For the second straight game, the Sixers’ defensive lapses and lack of energy in the first half were costly. 

Embiid keeps it close 

The Sixers ended the first half on a 9-2 run, thanks in large part to Embiid. He hit two threes from the top of the key, took a charge on Porzingis and enabled the Sixers to trail by just six points despite a poor first-half effort. 

Embiid had 20 points and 11 of the Sixers’ 19 rebounds in the first half. He channelled clear frustration into offensive aggression instead of disengaging. On an otherwise bleak night, that mindset was encouraging. 

Not enough support

Outside of Embiid, the Sixers’ other starters simply didn’t provide sufficient scoring.

Richardson wasn’t remotely assertive until the fourth quarter and only attempted eight field goals.

Tobias Harris had his lowest scoring output of the season, with seven points on 3 for 11 shooting. 

Al Horford didn’t look explosive and missed a couple of open looks.

Simmons was often relegated to the “dunker spot” in the half court vs. Dallas’ zone, where his ability to impact the game was limited. 

Things would obviously be much easier for the Sixers if Simmons was attempting jump shots on a somewhat regular basis, at least to the extent that he could be stationed in the corners off the ball instead of frequently forcing his teammates to abandon post-up or cutting opportunities to accommodate him taking the dunker spot. 

Boban makes an appearance

The Mavs sent Boban Marjanovic into the game late in the first quarter after Maxi Kleber picked up his second foul. It was the former Sixers’ 12th appearance of the season. 

Marjanovic, the tallest player in the NBA not named Tacko Fall, received a nice cheer from Sixers fans who remembered his jovial personality and no-jump dunks. 

He was scoreless in five minutes. The big man posted up against his good friend Harris and drew a foul early in the second, but he missed both free throws. 

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