It was really apropos that the Dallas Mavericks had to furiously climb out of a steep 16-point hole Friday night inLuka order to upend the Philadelphia 76ers, 107-98, at American Airlines Center.

After all, in an unusually long game that included a ladder, a broken basket and a 44-minute stoppage of play, the Mavs used a very effective zone defense to snap a two-game losing skid and high-step their way past the highly-touted Sixers. In increasing their record to 30-23, the Mavs rode a triple-double from Luka Doncic and limited the Sixers to just 35 points in the second half while finishing the game on a 22-9 run over the final eight-plus minutes.

“The zone was big for us,” coach Jason Kidd said. “It was effective there in the second half. We played it a little bit in that first half and we came out to start the second half in it.

“The biggest thing is rebounding (while employing a zone defense) is something that you’re always afraid of as a player or coach because you’re vulnerable. I thought the guys did a great job in the second half of keeping (Joel) Embiid and those guys off the boards.”

The comeback win was terrific on many levels for the Mavs, who unexpectedly dropped a pair of games earlier this week to two of the NBA’s lesser teams — Orlando and Oklahoma City. And things looked bleak Friday when South Garland High School product Tyrese Maxey buried a jumper to give the Sixers a 40-24 lead with 9:30 remaining before intermission.

But behind a gritty performance from Doncic and his teammates, the Mavs kept chipping away until they finally took control of the game by outscoring Philly in the third quarter, 32-15, and assume an 85-78 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Doncic, who finished with 33 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists, was masterful with his awe-inspiring scoring, pinpoint passes and feisty work on the boards which kept the Sixers on their heels.

LukaAfter Danny Green put the Sixers up, 89-85, early in the fourth quarter, a bucket by Doncic gave the Mavs the lead for good at 90-89 with 7:29 remaining in the game. And when Reggie Bullock followed with consecutive three-pointers for a 96-91 lead, the crowd went wild in a game that lasted way past midnight.

“Our quarterback was making all the right plays and his teammates, you saw Reggie making some big shots for us again,” Kidd said. “Sometimes we’re measured by wins and losses, but the bigger picture is (Doncic has) been under control here of late, making the right plays for his teammates.

“You can see that he trusts his teammates. He knows when to go score, and he was great.”

Doncic was so dialed in on Friday that after firing in one of his patented step-back three-pointers, he was jumping up and down and pointing to the rim while trying to get to attention of the referees to let them know that the basket was bent forward.

After play stopped with 6:03 remaining in the first quarter and the Sixers ahead, 19-17, Mavs center Boban Marjanovic tried to use his 7-4 frame to straighten the rim, but to no avail. A member of the AAC basketball operations crew brought out a ladder and attempted to repair it, but that didn’t work, either.Ladder

Then it was determined that an entirely new basket apparatus had to be brought in and installed. Following that installation, the teams were given five minutes to warm up before play resumed.

In all, on a night when Doncic collected his 44th career triple-double to move past Fat Lever and into sole possession of 10th place on the NBA’s all-time list for the most triple-doubles, the game ironically was delayed by 44 agonizing minutes.

“I shot it, then I realized (the rim) was (bent),” Doncic said. “They tried to fix it. The backboard was crooked. They had to change it, for sure.

“I want to say sorry to the people that stayed so late. It was late and a long, long game.”

LukaThe basket apparently got off centered when Dwight Powell grabbed the rim after an alley-oop dunk attempt was unsuccessful when a pass from Dorian Finney-Smith to Powell was stolen near the basket by Embiid with 7:15 left in the opening quarter.

With everyone oblivious to the bent rim for a couple possessions, Doncic poured in his step-back three-pointer, then noticed something was amiss.

Once play resumed, the Mavs were totally out of rhythm as they missed their ensuing 10 shots before Doncic scored on a fadeaway jumper with 2.2 seconds left in the opening quarter. Meanwhile, the Sixers went on a 14-4 run right after the game was delayed and toted a 33-24 lead into the second period before the Mavs regrouped and took control of the game in the second half.

“That’s the mental makeup of a team,” Kidd said. “We were usually making shots on the (basket) that was leaning one way or the other.

“But to stay with it and understand that the game wasn’t won or loss in those first couple of minutes coming back just shows a lot of the character for that group in there. No one panicked.”

Certainly not Doncic, who came into the game with just one dunk this season. But he added two more dunks in the third quarter, including a hammer dunk over center Andre Drummond that got the crowd on its feet and put the Mavs up, 85-78, with 1:05 left in the third.

“Obviously I feel better,” Doncic said. “That’s something I really am proud of. I feel more explosive. But I still have a long way to feel good.”

Bullock, who scored 20 points, was very impressed with the way Doncic willed the Mavs to victory.

“The dude is elite,” said Bullock, who started in place of Maxi Kleber (left knee effusion). “He’s an elite passer, an elite scorer and he gets everyone else involved. And he led us to a win tonight.”

By scoring nine of his 27 points and snatching nine of his 13 rebounds in the first quarter, Embiid was dominant early and tried to spoil the night for the Mavs. He also had 11 free throw attempts in the first half.

But in the second half, the Mavs held Embiid to just nine points and four rebounds, and the Sixers’ offense fizzled.

“At halftime we were down and we saw the game plan (and) we didn’t do the things that we talked about – keeping Embiid off the free throw line,” Kidd said. “We did that in the second half.

“But our defense, we held a very talented team under 100 points. We were connected there in that third quarter and when we’re like that we’re fun to watch.”

The Mavericks also got big contributions from Jalen Brunson (19 Jalenpoints, five rebounds), Powell (14 points, five boards), and Finney-Smith (13 points) compliment what they got from Doncic and Bullock.

“Not just mine, the whole defensive effort in the second half was amazing,” Doncic said. “We tried something new with the zone.

“It was amazing to see people talking. If you talk, you’re going to be great on defense, and that’s what we did.”

All of it centered on the spirited play for Doncic, who has eight career 30-point, 10-rebound, 15-assist triple-doubles, while the rest of the players in the league have combined for only nine.

“The two dunks were very impressive,” Kidd said. “You can see him moving, he’s feeling better, he’s smiling, he’s the Luka that we all know and he’s making all the right plays again.

“(The opposing team is) trying to take the ball out of his hands and he’s finding (open teammates) and he’s making all the right pays, so that’s fun to watch. He’s ready to go, which is good, because when he’s ready to go we’re ready to go.”

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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