NBA

NBA Game of the Week: Embiid and Sixers face Doncic duel after Nuggets no-show

By Sports Desk March 28, 2023

After Joel Embiid's calf injury robbed the NBA of a matchup between him and MVP rival Nikola Jokic on Monday, his Philadelphia 76ers turn their attention to another superstar opponent in Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.

Embiid was accused by some of "ducking" the Denver Nuggets' two-time MVP Jokic, who inspired Denver to a 116-111 victory over the Sixers with his 29th triple-double of the season.

The Sixers were also without James Harden because of a sore left Achilles.

Whether Embiid and Harden will be back in the fold for the visit of the Mavs remains to be seen, but what is beyond doubt is that the Sixers will be facing a man on a mission in Doncic.

Doncic is aiming to drag the Mavericks into the playoffs and, having seen his 16th technical foul and a one-game suspension rescinded prior to Monday's game with the Indiana Pacers, the Slovenian subsequently starred with 25 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists to end Dallas' four-game losing streak.

He has averaged 31.1 points per game in March, a month he began by putting up 42 in a home win over the Sixers.

Despite his best efforts, the Mavs are still on the outside looking in as they seek a place in the Western Conference play-in tournament. With a 37-39 record, they are the 11th seed, but are just games behind the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are in position to enter the playoffs as the sixth seed.

The Mavs have six games with which to claw their way in to either the play-in or the playoffs outright. Ending the month how they began it against the current third seed in the East would be a big step towards securing a spot in the postseason.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Philadelphia 76ers - Joel Embiid

With Embiid on the court, the Sixers average 118.2 points per 100 possessions compared to 111.5 without. Defensively, they concede 108 points per 100 possessions with Embiid and 112.3 without. That's a point differential of plus 10.2 when they have their MVP contender compared to minus 0.8 when he is absent.

In other words, he is worth 11 points per 100 possessions. It's obvious to say the Sixers need Embiid out there, but the numbers illustrate just how important he is.

Dallas Mavericks - Luka Doncic

Were the Mavs in a better position in the standings, Doncic might have his own compelling case for MVP. He is averaging a combined 49.7 points, assists and rebounds per game, the most in the NBA.

KEY BATTLE - Can Mavs limit Sixers' three-point prowess?

A strength for Dallas this season has been defending the three-ball. They have allowed opponents to shoot just 35 per cent from beyond the arc, with only six teams faring better than the Mavs in that regard. The Sixers, meanwhile, boast the second-best three-point shooting percentage in the NBA at 38.6. 

In that area of the game, it's a true strength-on-strength matchup that figures to go a long way to deciding if the Mavs can complete a season sweep.

HEAD TO HEAD

The Mavericks prevailed 133-126 in March in Dallas, but have not won in Philadelphia since December 2019.

Related items

  • Hawks point guard Young to undergo surgery on left hand Hawks point guard Young to undergo surgery on left hand

    Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young is scheduled to have surgery Tuesday to repair a tear of the radial collateral ligament in the fifth finger of his left hand. He will re-evaluated in four weeks.

    The team said Young sustained the injury in Friday's loss to the Toronto Raptors and an MRI on Saturday revealed a tear.

    It’s a devastating loss for the playoff-hopeful Hawks, who at 24-32 lead the Brooklyn Nets by three games for 10th place in the Eastern Conference and a berth in the NBA Play-In Tournament.

    Young leads Atlanta with 26.4 points per game (11th in the NBA) and ranks second in the league with 10.8 assists per contest.

    He was named an All-Star for the third time in his career this season and led the East with seven assists in a 211-186 win over the Western Conference last Sunday.

  • Timberwolves were 'desperate' for a win, claims Finch Timberwolves were 'desperate' for a win, claims Finch

    The Minnesota Timberwolves "needed a win desperately", according to head coach Chris Finch, whose team beat the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.

    Minnesota came out on top 101-86 to claim a fifth win in the space of six games, bouncing back from a defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks last time out.

    The Timberwolves are now clear at the top of the Western Conference with a 40-17 record, one win better than the 39-17 Oklahoma City Thunder.

    But coach Finch said his team "desperately" needed a victory.

    "We needed a win desperately," Finch said. "Still not playing really sharp basketball, particularly on the offensive end. But defensively, we were really strong."

    Anthony Edwards led the Timberwolves with 29 points, while Karl-Anthony Towns added 28 to Milwaukee's total.

    "It was ugly, sloppy. I think by both teams, actually," said Timberwolves center Naz Reid.

    "But we [were] able to buckle down in the last quarter and handle business."

    The Nets dismissed coach Jacques Vaughn over the All-Star break, though are now 0-2 under interim Kevin Ollie.

    "I thought we did a great job coming together as a team and facing adversity," Ollie said. "But we've got to make shots."

  • 'We're not where we need to be yet' – Celtics out to improve despite season-best run 'We're not where we need to be yet' – Celtics out to improve despite season-best run

    Al Horford says the Boston Celtics are "not where we need to be yet" despite beating the New York Knicks to claim an eighth-straight win.

    The Celtics won 116-102 on Saturday to mark a season-best winning streak, while they are also eight games clear at the top of the Eastern Conference.

    Jaylen Brown finished with 30 points, Kristaps Porzingis had 22 and Jayson Tatum had 19, while Horford chipped in with 10 points from the bench, as Boston sealed their fourth win of the season over the Knicks.

    But in spite of their fine form, Horford says the Celtics must demand more from themselves.

    "It's just the way kind of the season has gone," he said.

    "We've kind of held our own, continued to work through things. Obviously, the [Philadelphia 76ers] have injuries, different teams have different stuff going on, so that all goes into account.

    "But I can just speak to we're continuing to play good basketball. We're really trying to play the right way. I feel like [Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla] is really challenging us to continue to get better. This is the stretch of the season where we can really take it to another level, and that's what we're trying to do.

    "I feel like we're not where we need to be yet, and that's a good thing."

    Mazzulla added: "The guys understand how to positively impact each other.

    "They understand how going into something at one point in the game is going to open it up for someone else later in the game. And we have different combinations, and the guys trust those combinations, and it puts us in a better position to win.

    "At the end of the day, it's about winning, and the guys are understanding that. They understand how they affect each other."

    Brown, however, pointed to the postseason as when the level of performance will truly count for the Celtics.

    He said: "When it comes down to the playoffs, none of that stuff really matters.

    "I feel like it's going to be about matchups, it's going to be about playing hard. Obviously, home court matters, so that is key, but when you get into the thick of it, you;'ve got to win basketball games. Regardless of what your seed is.

    "If anything, it puts more pressure on you. But I think we're an experienced team. We've been in these situations before and I think we're ready."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.