3 storylines to watch as Sixers play Luka Doncic and the Mavericks

Noah Levick
·2 min read

Former Sixer returns to Philly, how Dallas might defend, more on Sixers-Mavs originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Sixers are literally in the home stretch before the All-Star break.

With their second-half schedule released Wednesday, the 21-11 Sixers will begin a four-game homestand Thursday night against the Mavericks.

Here are the essentials:

  • When: 7 p.m. ET

  • Where: Wells Fargo Center

  • Broadcast: TNT

And here are three storylines to watch:

Injury news

Seth Curry will return to action after missing Tuesday's game with left ankle soreness. Furkan Korkmaz started in his place that game and reminded everyone of his ability to score in spurts with 16 first-quarter points. The 23-year-old finished with 19 points on 5-for-11 shooting, seven rebounds and two assists, playing 28 minutes in the Sixers’ win over the Raptors.

The Mavs’ Kristaps Porzingis is out because of lower back tightness, while Maxi Kleber (left ankle sprain) will play. Dallas beat the Celtics Tuesday without Kleber and Porzingis, thanks in large part to 31 points from Luka Doncic, including two clutch, step-back three-pointers within the game’s final 20 seconds. Villanova product Jalen Brunson had 22 points off the bench.

A formula to win at Wells Fargo Center?

The Mavs are one of only four teams to win in Philadelphia since the beginning of the 2019-20 season. They did so comfortably on Dec. 20, 2019, playing a zone defense that frustrated the Sixers and getting 19 points in the first quarter from Tim Hardaway Jr.

More zone certainly wouldn’t be surprising Thursday night as an attempt to neutralize Ben Simmons’ playmaking and Joel Embiid’s low-post dominance in 1-on-1 situations. Though the Sixers had a poor night Tuesday from inside the arc and committed 18 turnovers, they did take 38 three-pointers, their second-highest figure of the season, and made 17.

Knocking down open threes could again be a key against Dallas, and head coach Doc Rivers likely wouldn’t mind an extended opportunity to fine-tune the Sixers’ zone offense.

Richardson’s return

Josh Richardson will play his first game against the Sixers since the draft-night trade that sent him to Dallas and brought Curry to Philadelphia. He hasn’t worked with Doncic as well as the Mavericks would’ve hoped thus far, with his three-point shooting and assist averages taking another dip.

However, Simmons, Embiid and Tobias Harris know from experience that Richardson can be a nuisance to play against, and that he’s capable of offensive flurries. They’ll be much more wary of Doncic, though, who’s only made 8 of 31 total field goal attempts in two career matchups against the Sixers. With season averages of 28.9 points, 9.2 assists and 8.6 rebounds, his MVP stock would be much higher if Dallas wasn’t the ninth seed in the Western Conference at 15-15.