The Philadelphia 76ers (43-26) defeated the Dallas Mavericks (43-27) 111-101 to split their season series. This Philadelphia win featured a reassuring James Harden game and a great team performance overall. You can read more about that in Austin Krell’s latest post-game recap. But the biggest factor in tonight’s fun contest was Joel Embiid’s dominance on both ends.
Fresh off of a 35-point outing against Cleveland, the big fella came to play. He was originally listed as questionable as he’s dealing with back soreness. He went through his pre-game warmups and thankfully decided to suit up. Joel Embiid influenced the game in many facets such as three-level scoring, elite playmaking, and active defense. Embiid offered the complete package in tonight’s game, which made him much more dangerous. Joel is nearly unstoppable when he locks in on defense and uses the gravity he attracts to create shots for others. The only stain on this masterclass was the six carless turnovers he committed. But, Joel racked up 32 points (on 66.8 true shooting percentage), 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and tied a career high of 5 steals. Embiid now leads the NBA in points per game averaging 30.0 points per contest this season.
The MVP candidate contributed two quick turnovers that fueled an early Dallas run led by Jalen Brunson. Embiid finally got going with a simple pull-up jumper from the foul line as a roller for Tyrese Maxey. The Mavericks got into a 2-3 zone very early in the first quarter. Joel penetrated through the defense with his physicality and scored down low and drew contact. Embiid stood out defensively the most in the opening period. He played excellent low-drop coverage against the Doncic/Powell pick and roll. Embiid heavily contested Powell’s layup then altered his next shot attempt off the roll.
The second frame was very refreshing for Sixers fans as the two-man game between Harden and Embiid was in full effect. Philly was able to rally back from a solid deficit because of the two co-stars. Midway through the second quarter, Harden used the double team and hit a cutting Embiid for an easy two. Joel recovered a loose ball thanks to Matisse Thybulle and scored an and-one layup on the break.
He continued to bully the Mavs’ defense by getting to the line time and time again. Joel faced a blitz as a roller off the pick and roll with Harden and he spotted Harris in the dunker’s spot for the jam. Harden and Embiid do high pick and roll action and Embiid rolls for a monstrous dunk that rocked Wells Fargo Center. Joel defended superstar Luka Doncic surprisingly well. He cut off driving lanes, intercepted Luka’s pass, and stuck with him on the perimeter. Embiid capped all of that off with a deep three that put the Sixers up five heading into the break.
Joel opened up the second half with a pull-up three pointer off of a dime from Tyrese Maxey. Embiid continued to be active on defense as he got another steal thanks to his help in the paint. He followed that up with another interception off of a poor transition pass from Luka Doncic. Embiid dished it to Georges Niang twice for three, which sparked a Sixers run. The MVP candidate’s shooting did cool down a bit in this period, but his defense and passing were still exceptional.
Embiid checked in midway through the final frame and immediately made an impact. He made a beautiful cross court pass to Tobias Harris for a corner three ball. The Harden/Embiid pick and roll was utilized once more. But this time, Joel popped out for an effortless mid-range jumper. He finished the night with a crafty finger roll layup to seal the deal.