Sixers observations

3 observations after Sixers hold off Mavs, earn impressive road win  

The Sixers notched a 120-116 victory at American Airlines Center on Sunday.

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The Sixers powered through a slow start and held off the Mavs on Sunday afternoon.

They picked up an impressive 120-116 victory at American Airlines Center, improving to 35-25 this season.

Tobias Harris led the Sixers with 28 points on 11-for-19 shooting. Tyrese Maxey tallied 24 points and Kelly Oubre Jr. chipped in 21 off the bench.

Luka Doncic had a 38-point triple-double as Dallas fell to 34-27. Kyrie Irving posted 28 points and Derrick Jones Jr. scored 21 on 7-for-9 shooting.

The Sixers won without Joel Embiid (left knee meniscus procedure), De’Anthony Melton (lumbar spine bone stress), Robert Covington (left knee bone bruise) and Cameron Payne (illness). 

Next up for the Sixers is a Tuesday night matchup against the Nets at Barclays Center. Here are observations on their win in Dallas:

Maxey takes charge in the first 

Kyle Lowry and Mo Bamba each started a second straight game following a Friday night victory over the Hornets.

The Sixers’ starters struggled out of the gates Sunday. Lowry attempted the Sixers’ first two shots and missed both. Dallas burned the Sixers early in transition and went up 8-0 on back-to-back left corner three-pointers by PJ Washington and Josh Green.

After a Buddy Hield mid-range miss, Doncic then drew Bamba on a cross-match and happily seized that opportunity to attack, drilling a top-of-the-key three. Sixers head coach Nick Nurse called timeout. 

Maxey began to roll on both ends of the court and the Sixers made a 14-2 run right back. The 23-year-old Dallas native nabbed two steals and zipped up the floor effectively after each theft, dropping in a floater and assisting a Hield triple.

The Sixers earned a 14-0 first-half advantage in points off turnovers and Maxey was at his shifty, lightning-quick best as a driver.

For good reason, Maxey was the only player who didn’t sub out in the first quarter. He posted 17 points in the period on 7-for-10 shooting and three assists. Maxey sped past Tim Hardaway Jr. and sunk another floater to give the Sixers a 32-22 lead with 37 seconds left in the first. 

Sixers grind through frigid shooting  

The Sixers tried to throw size and variety at Doncic.

Forwards Harris, Nicolas Batum and KJ Martin were among the players assigned to guard the five-time All-Star. The Sixers sent plenty of blitzes and extra bodies at the Slovenian superstar, then worked to scramble around from there. Doncic is practically impossible to contain, but the Sixers did well to force him to commit seven turnovers.

Though Irving was scoreless in the first quarter, Dallas’ star guards were both sharp early in the second as Maxey watched from the bench. An Irving pull-up three cut the Sixers’ lead to 36-35. 

Few jumpers fell for the Sixers over the opening two quarters; they shot 4 for 22 from three-point range. Hield (2 for 9), Lowry (0 for 5), Oubre (0 for 6) and Batum (0 for 4) all had cold starts from the floor.

Paul Reed mitigated some of those shooting woes. Just like against Charlotte, Reed was strong off the bench. He recorded 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting and six rebounds in the first half.

Harris also delivered a timely spurt of determined scoring in the paint as Dallas’ defense focused on swarming Maxey. However, he picked up his third foul with 3:17 to go in the second quarter and the Sixers only managed four points the rest of the period. They went into halftime with a 56-51 edge. 

Harris, Oubre help Sixers hold off Mavs

The Sixers’ shooting fortunes changed dramatically to begin the third quarter. They started 4 for 4 from long range in the second half.

Harris followed up a left corner jumper just before the shot clock expired with a fast-break three in the opposite corner. Hield and Lowry then added threes of their own, stretching the Sixers’ lead to 72-59. 

Everyone’s attention turned to Maxey’s health late in the third quarter. After Maxey slipped on a drive and collided with Jones' leg, he grabbed the back of his head, appeared shaken up, and exited the game. 

The Sixers were surely relieved that Maxey was assessed by Dallas’ physicians and cleared to return at the start of the fourth. 

Oubre was ultra-aggressive to finish the third period without Maxey, providing a few driving buckets and building his team’s lead up to 17 points. Lowry was a steadying, defensively savvy presence during that stretch, too. 

The Mavs kept throwing two men at Maxey or shading help his way on almost every possession, which the Sixers didn't mind at all. Maxey dished to Batum at the nail and he spotted Reed open for a slam. Harris made a mid-range, and-one jumper. Oubre remained in the zone.

Of course, any Doncic-led team is always dangerous. The Sixers endured an offensive drought, Doncic got a three to drop after a generous bounce, and Dallas' deficit dipped as low as three points.

The Mavs continued to score just about every time down, but the Sixers avoided a collapse thanks largely to Harris. He snagged a crucial offensive rebound, swished a corner three, and made a massive floater to help the Sixers leave Dallas with a well-deserved win.

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