PHILADELPHIA – Here’s our five takeaways from the Mavericks’ 117-98 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, their seventh consecutive victory on the road.
In the zone: Usually, that means an offensive zone. Not this time (although Tim Hardaway found that rare shooting zone in the first half). No, this is about the Mavericks’ defense. They went to the zone about four minutes into the game when the Sixers ran ahead 13-5. The rest of the night, the Mavericks befuddled the Sixers’ offense. It’s the fourth time they’ve kept a team under 100 this season, but the first time it’s happened against a team with a winning record. They had done it twice against New Orleans (7-23) and once against Golden State (6-23). “We got hot with the zone,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We were active in it. Zone is not an easy defense to play. You have to play a zone defense harder than you play man. It requires more basketball IQ and more communication. Guys scrambled around and played their butts off in it and we got lucky. They missed some shots. But our aggression was there. It’s something we knew we were going to go to at some point. We ended up going to it about 4 minutes into the game.”
Good on ya, Aussie: Ryan Broekhoff had played only token minutes in five games before Friday night. And they had all been in blowout wins – until Wednesday when he came in against Boston and canned a quick 3-pointer to give the Mavericks a glimmer of hope in the final minute. That effort, along with the fact that Broekhoff had one of the best games as a rookie in Philly last season, gave Carlisle a reason to insert the Australian early. The move paid off as Broekhoff finished with eight points in 18 minutes and knocked in a couple 3-pointers. Broekhoff played the entire second quarter when it was mostly reserves responsible for protecting the lead the Mavericks took after one period. It was a job they did well as Broekhoff was active at both ends of the floor.
Solid, not flashy: The guard combo of Jalen Brunson and Delon Wright never played together in the game. They virtually split time as the point guard spot and the results could not have been much better. The two combined for 19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. They were a combined 7-for-12 from the field. With Luka Doncic still out, this is the kind of production that is vital if the Mavericks are to have success without their superstar point guard. The backups did their job, posting a combined triple-double.
Non-shooting stars: The Philadelphia 76ers do not have a wealth of shooters in their backcourt and in this era of the NBA, that could spell trouble for them down the road. They hit just 10-of-34 shots from beyond the 3-point arc on Friday night and while they are a better 3-point shooting team than that on average, they could not get the ball in the basket against the Mavericks, which made making a comeback impossible in the fourth quarter, when the Sixers were 3-of-13 from 3-point range and 9-of-24 overall. That’s a recipe that will squash any rally.
Hot starters: The Mavericks have become the best team in the NBA in the first quarter, at least in terms of what it means to their success. They improved to 12-2 in games when they led after the first quarter. They took a 35-28 lead against the Sixers after 12 minutes and really never looked back. For the season, the Mavericks average 30 points in the first quarter. They are allowing 27.9 points. That may not sound like much. But when Carlisle says that this is as much a first-quarter league as it is a fourth-quarter league, the numbers back him up. By the way, when the Mavericks are behind or tied after the first quarter, their record is 7-7.