Despite a clear path to a high lottery selection, Dallas took the Detroit Pistons to overtime on Friday in a 113-106 loss.
As of Friday, the Mavericks sported the fourth-worst record in the NBA, a game worse than the Atlanta Hawks and a half-game better than the Orlando Magic.
Article continues below ...
But it will take a whole lot more than trying for the Mavericks to have any chance on Sunday against the NBA’s hottest team when Dallas heads to the Wells Fargo Center to take on the Philadelphia 76ers.
The 76ers are in full-on scorched-earth mode, winners of 13 straight. That includes arguably their finest victory of the season, a 132-130 defeat of the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James posted his career-high 18th triple-double of the season with 44 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
The win put Philadelphia a half-game ahead of Cleveland in the race for the Eastern Conference third seed.
As if attempting to out-do the league’s best player, 76ers rookie Ben Simmons continued his tear with 27 points, 13 assists, 15 rebounds and four steals. J.J. Redick added 28 points.
With Joel Embiid out with a left orbital bone fracture, Simmons has blossomed. In five games since Embiid was injured in a March 28 matchup with the New York Knicks, Simmons has averaged 18.2 points, with 53 rebounds and 52 assists.
“This was big, beating a team like that without an All-Star,” Simmons told reporters after the win over Cleveland. “I think everyone is coming together as a team. We are playing well.”
Dallas enters the game on a two-game losing streak and losers of five of six as its offense has only slightly improved from a brutal three-game stretch. After scoring 93, 92 and 87 points in three straight losses, the Mavericks have put up 115 (in a 115-109 win over Portland), 100 and 106 points in their last three games. For the season, Dallas is averaging 102.4 points.
Like the 76ers, Dallas also is missing some key players. Dirk Nowitzki (ankle) and J.J. Barea were both shut down for the season, and the Mavericks have turned to obscure young players like small forward Dorian Finney-Smith.
Undrafted last year, Finney Smith signed with the Mavs and played in 81 games last season, but he has been hurt for most of this year. Also seeing action is two-way rookie Johnathan Motley, who went undrafted this year and has flipped between Dallas and the G-League Texas Legends.
Motley showed some moxie in the overtime loss to Detroit, leading both teams in scoring with a career-high 26 points — two days after scoring a then career-high 14 points in 41 minutes.
“Look, that’s (what) we’re looking at these guys for,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “We know what the guys who have gotten heavy minutes can do. We need to explore situations and see what the (other guys) can do. Opportunities don’t get much better than this if you’re a G-League player or a prospect that’s looking for an NBA shot.”
Dallas concludes its 2017-18 campaign on Tuesday against the Phoenix Suns in a battle of two of the NBA’s worst teams.
Philadelphia heads to Atlanta on Tuesday before returning home on Wednesday to close out its regular season against the Milwaukee Bucks.