DALLAS – As over a dozen reporters were scampering towards his locker, Salah Mejri decided to playfully stop them dead in their tracks.
“Luka is not here,” said Mejri, whose locker in next to rookie sensation Luka Doncic. “I swear to God, he left.”
As Doncic sat out his second straight game while nursing a right thigh contusion, the rest of his Dallas Mavericks’ teammates cordially picked up the slack and emerged from Monday’s game against Philadelphia with a workmanlike 122-102 blowout victory over the 76ers before a sellout crowd of 19,645 at American Airlines Center.
It was the Mavs’ second straight victory and their first winning streak since they defeated Cleveland (111-98) and Charlotte (99-93) on Feb. 2 and Feb. 6, respectively.
Heroes were all over the place for the Mavs, who opened this three-game home stand on a winning note and won on the second end of a back-to-back for just the second time this season against 11 losses. Mejri was right smack in the middle of the destruction by the Mavs, who padded their won-loss record to 31-46.
For the night, Mejri registered his first double-double of the season as he finished with 16 points, a season-high 14 rebounds, and also added a career-high tying three assists and two blocked shots.
“This has been a difficult year for me, lots of ups and downs,” said Mejri, who was 5-of-9 from the field in 24 minutes. “From not playing at all, getting waived, brought back, some nights I play, some nights I don’t play.
“But I kept working the same way I’ve been working all these past three years and I’m happy I got rewarded tonight.”
Coach Rick Carlisle had some fun when asked about Mejri collecting his sixth career double-double.
“The only guy who can stop Mejri is Carlisle,” Carlisle said while smiling. “And he would agree with that.”
Told of what Carlisle, Mejri laughed and said: “Very true.”
Mejri punctuated his best game of this season by converting 2-of-4 shots from 3-point range, and just by being very dominant around the rim.
“It was probably about mid-season when I talked to him about 3-point shooting, because of the direction the game is going, and he took it to heart and he’s making them,” Carlisle said. “People are coming out on him and he’s driving it and getting fouled.
“This is what professionals do. They work at their craft and they get better. The minutes he’s getting he’s earned.”
The Mavs earned this victory by busting their guts and outscoring the Sixers in the second quarter, 41-18. That includes holding the Sixers to no field goals in the second quarter’s final 8:22 – Philly missed its final 14 shots of the quarter.
Dallas, which collected 29 assists and limited the Sixers to 38.7 percent shooting, toted a 68-50 lead into the dressing room. It was indeed an impressing showing, considering the Mavs won at Oklahoma City on Sunday and hadn’t been very effective when playing on the final end of a back-to-back.
“We played very hard, we had a lot of guys contribute, obviously,” Carlisle said. “Playing yesterday, it’s a favorable back-to-back because you’re playing at 2:30, which is good.”
The ball certainly went in a lot for Justin Jackson, who played his best game since the Mavs acquired him in a Feb. 6 trade with the Sacramento Kings. Jackson was 7-of-11 from the field and 3-of-6 from 3-point range and finished with a team-high 24 points and six rebounds.
Jackson tallied 16 of his points in the third quarter when the Mavs opened up a 20-point lead.
“I think it was just a lot of movement,” Jackson said. “Guys were finding me and I think I was just kind of playing with what they were giving us and it worked out pretty well.”
Carlisle was even more succinct when describing the game Jackson produced against the Sixers.
“I thought Justin Jackson played his best game as a Maverick and really was well-balanced with solid defense and good balance on offense,” Carlisle said. “Drives, floaters, threes, back-cuts.
“He’s a movement maker. The more I see him the more I like him.”
A fast break dunk by Dorian Finney-Smith and 3-pointers by Jackson and Mejri busted the game wide open and vaulted the Mavs ahead, 115-91, with 4:01 remaining.
Others who contributed mightily for the Mavs include Trey Burke (16 points, six rebounds, five assists), Dwight Powel (14 points), Jalen Brunson (13 points, seven assists) and Maxi Kleber (12 points, five boards).
“I just liked the way we played overall,” Carlisle said. “We played together, we got in front of these guys a lot.
“They didn’t have a great shot-making night, which helped. We moved the ball great and we drove it all night. When the ball’s moving hot like that, it tends to go in more.”
NOTES: Point guard Luka Doncic missed his second straight game on Monday with a right thigh contusion. The reason? “He’s still got swelling in the knee,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He took a knee-to-knee hit (from Miami’s Derrick Jones Jr.) on Thursday night early in the game, but he finished the game, but he certainly didn’t look like himself the rest of the game.” Asked if he would like to see Doncic play at some point in these final five games of the season, Carlisle said: “I would like to, but if it’s not the right thing we won’t do it. He’s young. Generally, young guys heal faster than guys like us, but we’ll see.”. .Carlisle spent part of his pre-game press conference heaping praise upon rookie guard Jalen Brunson. “When everybody watched him in college (at Villanova) and the success of their team, it was clear the impact that he had on that team,” Carlisle said. “Many people underestimated his physical ability, but they really underestimated his level of resourcefulness as a player. He’s a sneaky guy. He’s sneaky bigger than you think, he’s sneaky stronger than you think, he’s sneaky more athletic than you think, and he is one of the smartest and hardest working young players I’ve been around in 34 years in this league.”. .About those season-high 13 rebounds Dirk Nowitzki had on Sunday at Oklahoma City, Carlisle said: “I don’t know how many Advil he took before the game. Listen, he’s geeked up to play right now. He’s really into it. All the work and everything he’s put in, his legs are feeling good. This is a guy that has lost zero enthusiasm for his love of the game and love of representing this organization.”. .Mavs guard Daryl Macon sent his thoughts and prayers to the family of rap artist and community activist Nipsey Hussle, who was gunned down and killed on Sunday in front of his Los Angeles clothing store. NBA stars LeBron James and Stephen Curry are among the pro athletes who used their Twitter account to express how stunned they were over Nipsey Hussle’s senseless killing. “He was a good dude, always showing love in the community, great music,” Mavs guard Daryl Macon told Mavs.com. “He never rapped about killing people or none of that. It was always good motivational music. That’s what I liked about him. It was always motivational stuff.”. . Sixers coach Brett Brown, who was an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs from 2002-’13, discussed how difficult to contain Dirk Nowitzki over the years. “He put coaching staffs in tailspins, scrambling and searching in pick-and-roll defense,” Brown said. “You just begged to find something that could connect the dots simply, and you could deliver to a team. He never made it easy because of his skill set, and he was really coached with the coaches that would put him in compromising positions for the opposition. I remember how much pain he caused coaching staffs and how late he kept us up.”