PHILADELPHIA – That very long journey down a very dark alley finally ended Saturday night for the Dallas Mavericks.
Playing their 14th game over the past 25 days in 11 different cities and four different time zones, the Mavs simply ran out of gas at Wells Fargo Center and dropped a 106-100 decision to the Philadelphia 76ers before a sellout crowd of 20,656.
During that nightmarish nearly month-long stretch, the Mavs posted a 4-10 record, including a 1-3 worksheet on this just concluded week-long road trip. Overall, the Mavs will take a 18-21 record into Monday’s home game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Despite falling behind the Sixers by 19 points with legs that must have been fatigued, the Mavs actually had an excellent chance to atone for some early transgressions and sneak out of town with a victory. A pair of 3-pointers by Wesley Matthews (18 points), a layup by Dennis Smith Jr, and a shot from downtown by Luka Doncic quickly got the Mavs within 101-97 of the Sixers with 1:08 left in the game.
The Mavs then intentionally fouled Ben Simmons, who split a pair of free throws. And when Dwight Powell went to the line shortly thereafter, he had an opportunity to make this a one possession game with 50.1 seconds to go.
Powell, however, converted just one of two free throws, leaving the Mavs down 102-98. From there, Joel Embiid and Furkan Korkmaz each connected on two charity tosses to pad Philly’s lead to 106-98 with 14.3 ticks left.
“It was a tough scheduling game, for sure,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “But I thought the whole team showed resilience hanging in and giving ourselves a chance at the end.
“We got to a point where we basically had to pitch a shutout, which is very hard to do. But you know, we were right there.”
It was a game that eerily resembled the game the Mavs played Friday night in Boston.
The Mavs fell behind Philadelphia 18-7 less than five minutes into the game, but actually went up 46-42 late in the second quarter following a layup by Powell and two free throws from rookie Jalen Brunson. However, the Sixers ended the half on a 17-5 run to lead 59-51 at the midway point.
Nevertheless, Ryan Broekhoff and Brunson led a furious comeback by the Mavs with some serious shot-making. Broekhoff finished with a career-high 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, and Brunson, who led nearby Villanova to two national titles in the past thee seasons, was only two assists shy of a triple-double as he collected 13 points, a career-high 11 rebounds and eight assists.
“He was terrific all around, but these homecoming games can be emotional and difficult,” Carlisle said of Brunson. “But he looked like he was right at home, so I was happy for him.
“He did a lot of very, very good things.”
So, too, did Broekhoff, who made three of the five 3-pointers he attempted.
“I came into the league wanting to play and compete,” Broekhoff said. “The coaching staff and the players continue to show a lot of confidence in me and tell me to shoot the ball, and tonight some of them went in, which was a good feeling.
“When the first one goes in you don’t think about it too much. Shooters are always told to forget about the last shot. But if the first one goes in, it feels good. You’re like, ‘Tonight might be a good night for me.’ “
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good night for Doncic, who was just 4-of-16 from the field and finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. Doncic also was lamenting the Mavs’ NBA-worst 3-18 record on the road.
“We just need to figure out things on the road for sure,” Doncic said. “At home we’re great, so we just have to figure out things on the road.”
The Mavs’ bench scored 51 of the team’s points, grabbed 25 of their 49 rebounds and made 20 of their 38 field goals. And that was without key bench players J. J. Barea, Devin Harris and Dirk Nowitzki, all of whom rested on the second night of a back-to-back.
“Brunson kind of led the way at the point position, Broekhoff obviously stayed ready to play,” Carlisle said. “(Maxi) Kleber, Powell and (Dorian) Finney-Smith, those guys all did a good job with their respective roles.
“Hey, nice when we need help off the bench, we’ve got to have it and nice when the bench is struggling, the starters (have) got to pick them up. That’s why you have a team, that’s why you build a deep roster.”
That deep roster came in handy because DeAndre Jordan didn’t play the final two-thirds of the fourth quarter due to a left hand contusion. But the injury doesn’t appear to be anything serious.
“As far as I know DeAndre is OK,” Carlisle said. “I elected to stay with Powell down the stretch because he got some things going, really, at both ends in the last five minutes.”
For the Mavs, unfortunately, they couldn’t overcome solid games by Ben Simmons, JJ Redick and Embiid. Simmons collected 20 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists, Redick contributed 20 points, and Embiid added 25 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
But as the Mavs return home to play the Lakers on Monday and Phoenix on Wednesday, they would like nothing better than to pad their 15-3 record at home by two more victories.
“I like our team — I’ve said that from the beginning of the year,” Carlisle said. “They’ve grown a lot, they’ve learned a lot about each other.
“This stretch of a couple of games at home is great. So we’ve got to get back on the plane as quick as possible and get rested up and get ready to play on Monday.”
NOTES: Coach Rick Carlisle was asked if he was surprised rookie Luka Doncic is in second place on the frontcourt voting for the Western Conference All-Star team. “I think everybody’s surprised he’s gotten the number of fan votes that he’s gotten,” Carlisle said. “But he’s had a terrific year so far. He’s done a lot of good things, and you never know. Zaza Pachulia almost was a starter in the All-Star game four years ago when he was with us, so these kinds of things can happen.” In the 2016 All-Star voting, Pachulia finished in fourth place. He was less than 15,00 votes behind Kawhi Leonard for the third and final Western Conference starting frontcourt spot. . .In Saturday’s game, a cameraman had to get some medical attention after Luka Doncic fell on him following a drive to the basket. During a stoppage of play, Doncic went back over to make sure the cameraman was OK.