76ers look to snap skid, hurt Mavs' playoff chances
The Philadelphia 76ers return home on Wednesday looking to rebound from a difficult road trip as they welcome a Dallas Mavericks team playing for its postseason life.
Philadelphia (49-26) dropped its third straight game with a 116-111 loss Monday in Denver, the 76ers' fourth defeat in their last five games.
Most Valuable Player contender Joel Embiid and James Harden both missed the matchup. However, Tyrese Maxey's 29 points helped the short-handed 76ers rally from as many as 22 points down in the second half to pull within one possession in the closing minute.
"I love our team, and I'm going to keep saying it," Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said postgame Monday. "We're not worried. ... We've got to respect everybody, but we like our team. We've just got to get healthy."
Embiid exited Philadelphia's last win -- a 116-91 rout of Chicago last Wednesday -- due to calf soreness. He returned with a 46-point, nine-rebound, eight-assist effort Friday at Golden State and posted a 28-point, 10-rebound double-double the next night in Phoenix, but Rivers opted to sit the center at Denver.
Harden, meanwhile, has missed four straight due to a Achilles injury. Overall, he has sat out five of the 76ers' last six.
Maxey has stepped up to fill the scoring void on the perimeter with Harden sidelined. Maxey scored 37 points Saturday at Phoenix and has hit for at least 21 in each of the last six contests.
Maxey scored 29 points earlier this month when Philadelphia last saw Dallas, a 133-126 Mavericks' win at home March 2.
The Mavericks (37-39) have been on a steady decline since, going 4-8, but they come into Philadelphia having snapped a four-game skid with a 127-104 rout of Indiana on Monday.
Luka Doncic went for 25 points, while Jaden Hardy came off the bench to score 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor.
The Mavericks also got 10 points and a pair of blocked shots in just over 13 minutes from JaVale McGee. The veteran center logged his most minutes since Feb. 10, providing depth off the bench in the win.
"Great energy to have him out there," Doncic said of McGee, via Mavs.com. "He helped us a lot."
Dallas' slide dropped the Mavericks outside of the Western Conference's top 10. They continue a pivotal, five-game road swing with the third contest on Wednesday, trailing Oklahoma City for the West's final play-in spot.
"I thought the focus this morning, the talk, the walk-through, you could tell guys were different," Dallas coach Jason Kidd said Monday. "So with that, just playing that many bodies in a short amount of time, I thought the guys did a great job."
The Mavericks will look to maintain that "different" approach in this late-season push for the postseason.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, has its own postseason aspirations over the last seven games. The 76ers trail Boston by three games entering Tuesday action for the No. 2 seed in the East.
Cleveland is making a push behind Philadelphia, sitting just 1 1/2 games behind the Sixers in fourth place.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 28, 2023