Mavericks gain confidence after knocking off Cavs, Spurs
The Dallas Mavericks pulled something off that shouldn’t be done by a lottery-bound team. On successive nights, they vanquished the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers.
The latter being the defending champions. The former perhaps the most serious challenger to Golden State’s Western Conference supremacy.
“It’s two really gritty performances,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. ” 1/8Sunday at San Antonio 3/8, we got down 15 in the first half and really had to claw back. 1/8Monday 3/8, we were playing even or in front most of the night.
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” 1/8The Cavaliers 3/8 made runs, and we had answers. It was a great two days, great two nights. I’m really happy for the guys. With the things that we’ve gone through this year, to win two games like this gives you energy.”
Not only are the Mavs (18-30) on a two-game winning streak after taking down a pair of heavyweights, they’ve won four of five and seven of 10 going into Wednesday night’s clash with the upstart Philadelphia 76ers (18-29) at American Airlines Center.
The wins over the Spurs and Cavs have led to a different feeling in the Dallas locker room.
“We have grown a lot,” Harrison Barnes said. “Lately we have been giving some good fight and we haven’t always had the result we wanted, but 1/8Monday 3/8 we had a great group effort and we were able to get a win.”
The Sixers are in much the same boat as the Mavs, albeit with considering younger players. Perhaps the shiniest of those pieces, however, won’t be on the court against the Mavs.
Rookie of the Year favorite Joel Embiid didn’t make the trip to Dallas. (He’ll also sit out Thursday at San Antonio.) Embiid suffered a bruised left knee Jan. 20 and missed Monday’s 122-119 win over Sacramento.
He hasn’t played in five of the last six games, though he was on the floor in Friday’s nationally-televised 123-118 loss to Houston. That appearance has led to speculation that Embiid was rushed back to face the Rockets with the nation watching.
“There isn’t anything odd going on,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “It’s just that we feel like it’s best for him to get him to where he needs to be and to keep him behind with the resources that we have here and the rest he can get while he’s 1/8in Philadelphia 3/8.
“Nobody needs to feel like there’s a conspiracy theory here. There isn’t. We feel like we can do the best job for Joel in this environment.”
Embiid’s absence cleared the way for Jahlil Okafor, who’s played sparingly lately but had 15 points and four rebounds against the Kings. Nerlens Noel scored 12 off the bench. Robert Covington led the team with 23 points.
Philadelphia was gone 11-4 since Dec. 30 and its 10 wins in January are the franchise’s most in a month since going 13-4 in January 2012. The Sixers won only 10 games last season.
Dallas has been partially buoyed rookie point guard Yogi Ferrell, who was signed to a 10-day contract over the weekend and started the last two games. The undrafted Indiana product is averaging 14.0 points, 5.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 3.0 steals in 36.5 minutes in those two games.
The Mavs realize they’re in no position to overlook Philadelphia, even though Dallas has won seven straight in the series and 17 of the last 20.
“Biggest thing for us is our consistent effort,” Barnes said. “I think we are competing and defensively rotating, rebounding, and doing the extra things for extra possessions. I think as long as we keep that mindset, no matter who we are playing, whether Cleveland or Philly, we should be fine.”