The Sixers (1-4) will take on the Dallas Mavericks (1-5) in Dallas at 8:30 PM. The Mavs lost their first four games of the season before splitting a home-and-home series with Memphis. The Sixers will look to bounce back from Wednesday’s heartbreaking home loss to the Rockets. Markelle Fultz will be inactive again with a sore shoulder and broken jumper.
3 Things to Watch For in Tonight’s Matchup
Former teammates/best buds Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel will face off in the paint. Both centers have been talking trash to the media leading up the game. If we are to believe Joel, Nerlens should prepare for his ass to be cooked. Embiid should have no problem posting up the shorter, leaner Noel. However, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Embiid said he expects Dallas to double team him and even play zone. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle wants to cover up Noel’s weaknesses and put Embiid in uncomfortable situations. A nearly perfect basketball player, Embiid’s major problem this season has been turnovers. Carlisle will not hesitate to send double teams until Embiid proves he can read the defense and make accurate passes under duress. Also, look for Noel to test Embiid’s conditioning by repeatedly sprinting to the rim in transition.
Few teams plays zone defense in the NBA, but the Mavs will likely deploy it tonight. Asking Dirk Nowitzki to guard either Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid man-to-man would be disastrous. Expect Carlisle to use a “matchup” zone, which is less like the classic 2-3 set defense you played as a kid and more like a man-to-man with extreme switching. Look for Brett Brown to select offensive sets that will force Nowitzki or Noel to close out to Redick, Covington, and Bayless in the corners. Additionally, the Sixers could try to pull the Dallas bigs out to the perimeter with Embiid-Simmons pick and rolls. Simmons should have a field day passing the ball if he can split the gaps in the zone and get into the paint. Here’s how the Spurs attacked the Mavs zone a few years ago. Watch how San Antonio uses a ball screen to pull Chandler out of the paint. Diaw gets a three when Nowitzki’s closeout to the wing is late.
- Disregard the numbering. I just can’t delete it without deleting this whole paragraph. Sorry. Anyway, I fully expect Robert Covington to make life miserable for Harrison Barnes on isolation plays. Every time Barnes stares him down, Covington will know every move and counter move that Barnes is likely to use. When Rock guards a guy like Kevin Durant, scouting reports and film study can only help so much. Tonight, Covington should be able to stick with Barnes athletically and use his IQ to contest every shot.
This is a game that the Sixers should win, but if they lose, let’s not panic. Only panic if someone gets hurt. Follow our Twitter during the game for commentary. See you on the other side.