Sixers’ second-half stumble gives Mavericks edge, 118-102

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Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic, right, tries to get past Philadelphia 76ers’ Kelly Oubre Jr., left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Off the heels of their loss to the Brooklyn Nets, the Philadelphia 76ers continued their homestand, hosting Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. Both the Sixers and the Mavs came into the night looking to improve their positioning in their respective conference standings.

As has been the case for much of the season, the Sixers would come into the night extremely shorthanded. Joel Embiid continues to miss time as he awaits meniscus surgery, while fellow starts Nico Batum and De’Anthony Melton continue to battle lingering issues with their hamstring and spine, respectively. Finally, Philadelphia continues to be without Robert Covington, who, based on Nick Nurse’s most recent comments, is not close to a return to the court.

Despite this, the Sixers had to put their best foot forward, shorthanded or not, and do their best to play through the pain.

Playing through the pain

While those key players continued to miss time for Philadelphia, Tobias Harris returned after missing Saturday’s game against the Nets due to an illness. It became clear as the night went on that Harris was not quite himself, though he did everything in his power to push through in this game, finishing with 17 points, six rebounds, and six assists. As difficult as it was for Harris, it was just as hard for a healthy Tyrese Maxey to find his footing against Dallas.

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey(0) goes up to shoot against Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic, second from front left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Similar to his start against the Nets over the weekend, Maxey struggled to get into a rhythm against the Mavericks. Without Joel Embiid in the lineup, opposing teams continue to trap Maxey high, cutting off any ability for him to create his own shot or utilize a two-man game with another teammate.

Unfortunately, try to the Sixers’ may, playing so shorthanded, so often, is not always a problem that can be coached or hustled away. A deadline move may help free up the floor somewhat for Maxey, but it’s the hopeful return of Batum, Melton, Covington, and, of course, Joel Embiid that is the only true solution.

For now, at least, there are some young players developing.

Springer continues to show signs of development

Jaden Springer has continued to prove useful for the Sixers over this recent stretch. In his last five games, Springer is averaging 8.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 2.0 steals per game. It’s extremely positive to see him develop offensively, but his defense continues to improve seemingly with each game.

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Jaden Springer (11) shoots against Indiana Pacers’ Myles Turner (33) and Bennedict Mathurin (00) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Not since Ben Simmons has a Sixers put Luka Doncic in the mud like Jaden Springer did Monday night. His fantastic blend of athleticism, strength, and IQ culminate into a legitimate defensive stopper, a lost trait in today’s NBA.

Springer is steadily making the case for himself to have a pronounced role next season. With De’Anthony Melton and Patrick Beverley set to hit free agency at the end of the season, Springer is in prime position to see a promotion of sorts heading into next season.

Up next for the Sixers

The Philadelphia 76ers will remain at home as they’re set to face Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night. The Warriors have endured an uneven season, to say the least, but they gave the Sixers plenty of fits in their matchup earlier this season.

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Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., center, loses his footing between Golden State Warriors guards Stephen Curry, left, and Brandin Podziemski (2) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM EST, and you can expect it to be a shootout between two of the game’s best, Tyrese Maxey and Steph Curry.