This will mark the fourth of five installments of Eastern Conference Hell Week for the Mavericks, who are in the midst of playing the five best teams in the East in an eight-day span—a stretch that started with a loss to Miami in which star wing Luka Doncic injured his ankle two minutes in and was thus rendered unavailable for the rest of this jaunt.
But in three games, effectively, without Doncic, the Mavs have held their own despite a 1-2 mark. They rallied against the Heat and lost by four in overtime, they bounced back to beat the Bucks in Milwaukee and fell to Boston at home, a game they led by 10 points, on Wednesday.
The oddsmakers seem to think the Mavs will run out of gas playing in Philadelphia, where the Sixers are 14-1 after losing for the first time in their own building this season, on Wednesday to the Heat. The Sixers are 8.0-point favorites and a minus-410 on the moneyline, a big number for a team that is only 7-6-2 against the spread at home.
Mavericks vs. Sixers Preview
The Sixers run post-up options on 14.0 possessions per game, which accounts for 12.5 percent of their possessions, by far the most in the league—No. 2 on the list is San Antonio with 8.5 percent of its possessions coming in post-ups. And the Sixers are right to do so, with behemoth big man Joel Embiid patrolling the paint. Embiid is the most-used post-up player in the league, getting 7.9 such possessions per game. He scores 1.08 points per possession in the post, in the league’s Top 84th percentile on those plays. He is second only to LeBron James at scoring efficiency in post-ups.
This is an issue for Dallas, which does not have the heft to keep up with Embiid’s post game. In fact, Dallas gives up 7.3 points per game in post-ups, most in the NBA. Their defensive efficiency in the post is good—0.87 points per possession, 10th in the league—but opponents have taken advantage of the Mavs’ lack of consistent defensive options inside.
Kristaps Porzingis will be vital for the Mavs offensively and probably won’t be on Embiid too much on the defensive end. That would leave Dwight Powell, though, and this season, Powell has allowed 1.02 points per possession when defending the post, good for only the 31st percentile.
Dallas can keep things close if they can knock down their 3s. The Mavs have made at least 13 3-pointers in each of their last six games (the league average is 12.0 per game) and are shooting 37.0 percent from the arc in that span. In their last four games, the Sixers have allowed 37.3 percent shooting from the 3-point line while making only 33.6 percent.
But the Mavs, after covering the absence of Doncic with chicken wire and bubble gum for three games, are probably due for a subpar shooting night. And the Sixers are probably due for a decent one. Combine that with what Embiid should be able to do inside against Dallas and an 8.0-point spread doesn’t sound so bloated.
Mavericks vs. Sixers Pick & Prediction
PICK: Sixers -8.0
SCORE PREDICTION: Sixers 112, Mavericks 103