The Dallas Mavericks (19-11, 7-6 away) have been on a roll as of late, winning 5 straight games to pull out of a previous 3-game slump, but adding another win to that run of good form may prove to be a tough task tonight on the road against the Philadelphia 76ers (20-10, 13-5 home), especially with a couple of key players out for the contest due to injury.
Both Jason Terry (14.8 points, 3.6 assists/game) and Delonte West (8.3 points, 3.4 assists) figure to be out of tonight’s contest against the defensive-minded Sixers, which doesn’t bode well initially for Dallas, who will need as many of their outside shooters as possible against the league’s 2nd lowest scoring defense, which is only allowing 87.3 points per game. Scoring plenty of points has been the difference maker for the Mavericks over the course of their 5-game winning streak, as during that run they’re averaging better than 100 points per contest. Conversely, in the previous 3 losses to start the month of February, Dallas was held to an average of 87 points, which oddly enough is almost right at the season average that Philadelphia is allowing to opposing offenses. Thus, finding a way to fill the void in the perimeter shooting game is essential if Dallas is to win their 6th straight and simultaneously hand the Sixers their third straight loss at home.
One bright spot for Dallas however is having a well-rested Dirk Nowitzki (18.4 points, 6.1 rebounds/game) heading into tonight’s line-up, as he was able to sit out the 4th quarter of Wednesday’s 102-84 rout of Denver. Nowitzki has been playing very well in February, and factoring out the blowout game in Denver where he wasn’t needed, he’s averaged 25.6 points and 7.3 rebounds in six games this month. That trend has to continue against Philadelphia tonight, especially as they’ll be without the 23.1 points the Jason Terry and Delonte West typically combine for on a given night. On a fun side note, if Nowitzki puts up 26 points in tonight’s contest, he’ll crack the top ten in points scored for a single NBA team…I’m sure Dallas would be happy to see him do that on a short-handed night tonight.
While Dallas will be looking to find ways to add depth to their offense, as they’re collectively missing 3 important guards for game time (aside from Terry and West, Rodrigue Beaubois (7.3 points) will also be out for personal reasons), the Sixers will be looking to get a better all-around home performance from its even deeper cast of characters to avoid dropping 3 straight games on their home court. With 8 players on the Sixers team averaging better than 8.9 points per game, Philadelphia has had a potent mix of offensive prowess and solid defensive play, based on the fact that a lot of their players see a lot of playing time, but most aren’t pushed too hard night in and night out. With 8 players north of 24.4 minutes per game, but just two averaging over 27.6 minutes (forward Andre Iguodala and point guard Jrue Holliday), Philadelphia will look to keep fresh legs on the court as much as possible, especially against a Dallas team that will have to rely more on its top scorers for production that usual.
Two key areas that Philadelphia must improve on if they are to overcome the Mavericks tonight is their shooting percentage, and their defensive efforts to hold down the shooting efforts of Dallas; in their last 3 home losses to San Antonio, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Orlando Magic, the Sixers never shot better than 42.4 percent, and in the most recent loss (the 103-87 beat down at the hands of Orlando), they allowed the Magic to knock down %53.3 of shots from the floor and a whopping %60 (15-25) from beyond the 3-pt line. Dallas isn’t a great shooting team, ranking middle of the pack at %44.3 from the floor and hitting just %32.8 from behind the arc, so the Sixers must avoid letting Dallas control the game with outside shooting, especially on a night when most of their top guards won’t be in action.
On the offensive side of the ball for Philadelphia, they’ll be certainly missing starting center Spencer Hawes’ production (10.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg), but its perhaps more important for them to get good efforts around the perimeter, especially with Delonte West out of action. West is Dallas’ top outside defender, and with Philadelphia deep at the guard position with Lou Williams (16.1 ppg, 3.8 apg) and Jrue Holliday (13.7 ppg, 4.8 apg) running the show, both these guys could see good game tonight that help push the Sixers towards a win at home. Expect to see some more looks generated for rookie Evan Turner (8.9 points, 5.5 rpg) as well, and if these three combined with Andre Iguodala can keep moving the ball around to get good open shots from outside (note: Philly is 4th in the league in assists with 22.5/game), Dallas will have a tough time keeping up on the scoring line tonight. With Philadelphia averaging almost 6 percentage points better as a team from 3-pt range than Dallas is, the 76ers would do well to rain threes on the Mavericks and their depleted guard positions all night, and hopefully gain some shooting confidence back that will translate into other areas of their game.
For Dallas’ offense, Lamar Odom (8.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Shaun Marion (12.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg) need to be two key figures that step up in tonight’s game, as the bulk of the scoring won’t likely come from the perimeter game. Odom in particular has continued to struggle to regain his Sixth Man of the Year form from last year, and he’s score in double digits just twice during the Mavericks’ 5-game winning streak. Marion has played well as of late, with two double-doubles in 3 games, and for Dallas to keep up the scoring, he’ll need to drop in at least 15 points for the Mavs to have an edge. Also, with Spencer Hawes missing from the middle of the Sixers line-up tonight, Brendan Haywood (5.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg) needs to be focused perhaps more on adding points than being a strictly rebounding big man. He’s been struggling with fouls as well recently, and has only one game in double-digit scoring in the last 5, so in a match-up against the less talented Nikola Vucevic and Lavoy Allen, he has to be a contributor. Philadelphia has gone to a smaller line-up in recent games without Hawes in the mix as a result of the struggles faced by Vucevic and Allen to fill the void, so exploiting this area could pay dividends for Haywood and the Dallas Mavericks tonight.
Betting lines for the Dallas Mavericks at Philadelphia 76ers:
Sportsbetting Sportsbook is our featured online sportsbook for Friday, and checking into their well-laid out site for the betting lines on tonight’s key match-up between the Mavericks and the 76ers, we find the hosting Philadelphia side to be the favorites, getting -155 odds to win straight up on the money line. The Dallas Mavericks, mostly due to nagging injuries, hobble in to tonight’s game with +135 odds to win on the money line.
Against the spread, the Sixers are a 3.5 point favorite at -105 odds, while Dallas comes in as +3.5 point underdogs, getting the same odds.
On the Over/Under for the points total, we’ve got another low-scoring margin predicted by the Sportsbetting bookmakers, with the mark set at 178.5 points. While this mark certainly takes into account the missing 30+ points of contributions missing from Dallas’ line-up, combined with the stingy defense of the Sixers which is allowing under 88 points per game, we’re expecting that Philadelphia will make an improved scoring effort (averaging 95.6 ppg this year) in the face of looser perimeter defense from the Mavericks, and put up enough points at home to beat out this low-level mark, regardless of what Dallas is able to do.
Our Pick to Win:
Despite the fact that Dallas will struggle to find additional points to replace the absence of Delonte West, Jason Terry and Rodrigue Beaubois, the Mavericks have been playing with confidence during their 5-game winning streak, and won’t suffer a road defeat without a tough fight this evening. That said, this game is Philadelphia’s to win or lose, as they’ve got the better depth and better defense, and should be out to stop the recent string of losses on their home court with a confidence-building win over the former NBA champs. Philadelphia should stay fresh and focused on defense, and take advantage of their better outside shooting in the face of a less-than-healthy Dallas Mavericks perimeter defense to pull away towards the end of tonight’s contest. For the bottom line, Philadelphia prevails at home 95-90 over Dallas.