3 Observations as Embiid, Harden Lead Sixers to Impressive Win Over Mavericks

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Dallas Mavericks 111-101 on Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. It was an impressive win considering they made the Mavericks, who had won 14 of their last 17 games, struggle offensively.

Joel Embiid led the way for the Sixers, scoring 32 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out four assists. James Harden had one of his better games in a Sixers uniform, finishing with 24 points, seven rebounds and 12 assists.

The Sixers shot the ball well, connecting on 42.1 percent of their shots from three-point range.

The win moved the Sixers to 43-26 on the season. They next take on the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Here are three observations from the win:

Embiid's big night powered by the pick-and-roll

The Sixers' offense functions a lot smoother when they have the Embiid-Harden pick-and-roll going like they did against the Mavericks. The Sixers fell behind 7-0 early but quickly got going after an early timeout. Embiid led the way in the first half, scoring 21 points to power the Sixers to a 58-53 lead at halftime.

Embiid scored 14 of his points in the second quarter due in part to a highly functioning pick-and-roll with Harden. The middle of the Mavericks defense fell apart consistently as they had no response for it.

Mavericks' big man Dwight Powell had his hands full trying to stop Embiid, who had it going from anywhere on the floor as it just one of those nights for the MVP candidate. He even hit a step-back three as the shot clock expired on a possession late in the first half.

The Embiid-Harden pick-and-roll has proven to be mostly successful for the Sixers and it is a great way to open up more options offensively. He had success against Dallas out of the pick-and-roll on both dives to the basket and popping in the mid-range. When they have it going like they did against the Mavericks, their offense is immensely difficult to stop.

The success of the Harden-led bench lineup

One of the Sixers' biggest issues over the past couple weeks has been a lack of bench production, specifically when Embiid is off the floor. The Harden-led bench lineups were not working, especially when Harden himself has been out of sync as a scorer.

The decisive stretch of the game came when Embiid was off the floor from late in the third quarter to midway through the fourth quarter. The Sixers had a 76-73 lead when Embiid went to the bench with 2:24 remaining in the third quarter. With the Harden-led bench lineup out on the floor, the Sixers actually expanded their lead to 102-89 by the time Embiid came back out on the floor with 6:48 to play in the fourth quarter.

Harden, who has been ice cold as a scorer over the previous five games (19.6 points per game on 32.4 percent shooting from the field and 27.3 percent shooting from three-point range), reminded everyone what he is capable of. He effectively took control of the game, knocking down his patented step-back threes, getting to the rim and spreading the ball around to everyone on the floor.

The Sixers heated up from three-point range, knocking down six triples in the third quarter alone. Georges Niang, who was sorely in need of a couple makes after shooting just 3-of-14 from deep over his last two games, connected on all three of his attempts from beyond the arc in the third quarter. The Sixers' bench is a major weakness this season, but Niang is one of the few players who produces on a relatively consistent basis. He finished with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting from three-point range to go along with five rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench. The Sixers are 9-1 when Niang makes at least four threes in a game this season.

Harden was masterful in the fourth quarter. He connected with DeAndre Jordan for a couple dunks, helping the veteran big man have one of his better games since joining the Sixers. Jordan finished with eight points and seven rebounds and was a plus-5 in 13 minutes off the bench.

Jordan has struggled to produce in the backup center minutes since joining the Sixers. If he can use his athleticism and veteran instincts to make a few plays like he did against Dallas, the Sixers will be in much better shape heading into the playoffs.

The success of the Harden-led bench lineup against the Mavericks has the potential to be one of the biggest impacts for the Sixers throughout the remainder of this season.

Sixers' defense does good job slowing Doncic down

The Sixers came into the game against the Mavericks with a plan on how to slow down superstar Luka Doncic. They would utilize a zone defense and try to make Dallas rely on the rest of their roster to beat them.

Their plan worked wonders as they held Doncic to just 17 points on 5-of-20 shooting from the field. Matisse Thybulle did a good job keeping him uncomfortable, but it was really a team effort. The Sixers did a good job throwing multiple looks at Doncic and using the zone defense to prevent him from getting any clean looks around the basket.

Embiid was extremely active defensively, tying his career-high with five steals. When he is locked in defensively it changes everything for the Sixers. The Sixers usually utilize a ton of drop coverage defending the pick-and-roll, but Embiid has the rare ability for someone his size to be able to effectively step out and defend at the three-point line like he did multiple times against Doncic throughout the night.

Jalen Brunson had a good game, single-handedly getting the Mavericks off to a 7-0 start and finishing with 24 points on the night. However, it was not enough to help propel the Mavericks to the win. Holding Doncic to 17 points went a long way towards helping the Sixers get the victory.

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