Report From Philadelphia 76ers
Game Recap: Mavericks 129, Sixers 103
Snapshot: En route to a historic scoring performance, Jahlil Okafor staked the 76ers (8-47) to a promising start on Sunday. The limited availability of Nerlens Noel, the team’s other promising young big man, proved critical on the opposite end of the floor, as the Dallas Mavericks (30-27) delivered a powerful offensive display in their 129-103 victory at American Airlines Center.
Fueled by 18 first-quarter points, Okafor finished the contest, his 49th as a professional, with a career-high 31 points. In doing so at just 20 years and 68 days old, he became the youngest player in Sixers history to eclipse the 30-point mark in a single game.
From the outset of the tilt, Okafor was dialed in. He reached double-figures before the midway point of the opening quarter, and throughout the frame, put his diverse shot-making ability on display. Floaters, turnaround jumpers, lay-ups, and dunks, of which he had four on Sunday, were all part of Okafor’s arsenal. By the time his night was done, Okafor had knocked down 12 of his 19 field goal attempts, and also managed to snag eight rebounds.
Due in large part to Okafor’s dominance, the Sixers held a 30-28 advantage through 12 minutes of play. Thanks to their reserves, the Sixers’ margin advanced to as many as nine points early in the second frame. But Dallas responded, bursting for 31 points over the last eight minutes of the half. During this key stretch, Noel was confined to the sideline with three personal fouls, leaving the Sixers without their top-rated defensive player.
In the second half, the Mavericks went ahead by as many as 30 points. Their 129 points represented the second-highest total yielded by the Sixers this season.
Wes Matthews paced the Mavericks with 21 points (8-12 fg), while Dirk Nowitzki tallied 18 points (6-14 fg). In the process, he became the sixth person in NBA history to generate 29,000 career points.
Brett Brown Said – On the Dallas Mavericks’ ability to overcome the Sixers’ first-quarter lead:
“I thought we fouled a lot. We tried to take our energy and youth and play fast and play aggressive. It ended up really hurting us with Nerlens [Noel] sitting too much. Any time we don’t have him on the court defensively, you’re holding your breath a lot. I though the foul trouble was one of the main reasons the game changed.”
Jahlil Okafor’s 31-point barrage was Sunday’s headline for the Sixers. Below, take a look back at the rookie’s performance.
Notes and Quotes:
Nerlens Noel began the Sixers’ two-game road trip with his most potent offensive showing of the season. He deposited 24 points against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, converting 10 of his 15 field goal attempts. The efficient effort helped move him farther up the NBA field goal percentage list. He entered Sunday ranked seventh in the league, having knocked down 53.8 of his shots this season.
“I think I’m just in better spots, better places,” said Noel following Sunday’s shoot-around. “You learn how to find yourself in those spots as your season goes along. You start dealing with different scenarios, and you really start figuring it out. It took time, especially with the bigger line-up maybe, but it’s definitely been working out as of late. You just stay strong and work through it.”
Against Dallas, however, Noel ended up having one of his tougher nights. The power forward was whistled for two personal fouls in the opening five minutes of the first quarter, then picked up his third harm 53 seconds into the second period. He logged just seven minutes in the first half, and ended the game with four points (2-4 fg) and five rebounds.
Prior to Sunday, Dallas had competed in a franchise-record three straight overtime match-ups, the most recent of which came Friday in a 110-104 setback to the Orlando Magic. Following that contest, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle pointed out that his squad had difficulty countering Orlando’s younger, more athletic club. The Sixers’ roster features those qualities well, and were reason enough for Carlisle to be on alert entering Sunday night.
“I believe this is going to be one of the hardest games of the year,” Carlisle told Dallas reporters on Saturday. “I think our guys understand how you have to get geared up physically and mentally to play these guys. It’s a wave of young, athletic guys that just keep coming at you for 48 minutes.”
Brett Brown was hoping some of the different traits between his club and Dallas would prove beneficial
“That’s who we are, and that’s how we’ve tried to play the whole year, is fast, and try to disrupt things with youth and athleticism,” said Brown. “It’s a complete sort of different types of styles in some ways for sure. Roster, make-up. I think that Rick does a great job of taking whatever teams he has had and really putting them in places to execute offensively. And so we hope to play fast, we hope to disrupt, but we understand that’s a lot easier to talk about now than it might be during the game.”
Brown’s cautionary remarks rang true. When the Mavericks needed a lift midway through the second quarter, it was their veterans who keyed a 31-11 surge. Additionally, Dallas gave the Sixers limited opportunities to play in situations outside the halfcourt.
While all 14 of the Sixers’ active players were available heading into their match-up with Dallas, several members of the roster were at less than full strength.
First, there was Jerami Grant, who sustained another right corneal abrasion in Friday’s outing in New Orleans. He was held out of Saturday’s practice, but was cleared for Sunday.
When asked if Grant’s ability to fight through pain showed signs of toughness, Brett Brown kidded, “He showed me that he needs goggles.”
“He’s been hit in the eye, what’s this, three times? And so I think that he does have toughness. He does play through things.”
That quality isn’t the only aspect of Grant’s DNA that has stood out to Brown.
“I just feel like when you look at his make-up, toughness-wise, his gifts physically throughout the course of the year, I stamp off on him as a keeper,” Brown said. “He is an NBA player, and I think that with those things that I just said it gives us a lot of reason to be excited.”
Like Grant, Nik Stauskas is in his second NBA season. Also like Grant, he wasn’t at one hundred percent on Sunday. His right shin was acting up again. The issue sidelined him for almost the entirety of training camp, and, more recently, for three games in the middle of January.
Stauskas indicated he began experiencing discomfort in his shin following Saturday’s workout at Smoothie King Center, saying, “Once we had a little practice, and I kind of just felt a little soreness in there, so I just wanted to make sure that I jumped on it early, and let [the team] know that I was feeling that. So that’s why we’re on the minute restrictions [Sunday[. We’re just go day-to-day and see how it feels, and just measure off of that.”
Before Sunday’s tip-off, Brett Brown estimated Stauskas’ playing time would be capped at 24 minutes. He logged 20 minutes, and netted eight points.
“I”m positive on [the shin], just because it’s a lot different than what happened in training camp,” Stauskas said. “Here it’s kind of just been a general soreness in that area.”
Grant scored four points and hauled in five rebounds.
The Sixers will see a good amount of the Orlando Magic (24-30) over the course of the next week. The first of their two meetings will take place on Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST at The Center. They’ll then pair up again on Sunday at Amway Center in Orlando. The Magic were a relatively active participant leading up to a low-key NBA trade deadline. On Tuesday, they sent Tobias Harris to Detroit in exchange for point guard Brandon Jennings. Jennings delivered an instant impact in his debut, coming off the bench to drain 18 points in the Magic’s 110-104 overtime victory over Dallas. Orlando was part of another noteworthy transaction as well, sending Channing Frye to Cleveland as part of a three-team swap. The Magic ultimately received a 2016 second-round draft pick from the Portland Trail Blazers. Orlando has prevailed in three of its past five contests, after enduring a 2-15 rut.