Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving combine for 82 in Mavericks’ win over 76ers, but this doesn’t look sustainable

If that’s the Dallas Mavericks basketball winning formula, buckle up.

On Thursday, the Mavericks blew a 20-4 lead in the third quarter before giving up 17 unanswered points to the Philadelphia 76ers to start the fourth. By the time this was done, Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving had combined 82 points for Dallas. set a franchise record with 25 three-pointers. The Mavericks fended off a late 76ers play to win 133–126.

This may not be a sustainable plan for winning basketball. But it certainly wasn’t boring, as the Mavericks pulled off a much-needed victory over a fellow championship hopeful.

Win a reprieve for Luke-Kairy’s Rough Start.

Prior to Thursday’s victory, the Mavericks were leading 1-4 in matches Doncic and Irving played together, an early indictment of last month’s blockbuster trade that saw two of the most explosive ball-dominating defensemen play in the same backcourt. zone. Thursday’s win stopped the bleeding but failed to assuage concerns about a team built around a high-octane duo with no discernible defensive presence. The purpose of these Mavericks is simply to outsmart the enemy. They outplayed the 76ers.

Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey (0) walks past as Dallas Mavericks' Kyrie Irving (2) and Luka Doncic (right) celebrate Irving's three-pointer in the second half of an NBA basketball game on Thursday, March 2, 2023, in Dallas.  (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey (0) walks past as Kyrie Irving (2) of the Dallas Mavericks and Luka Doncic celebrate Irving’s second-half three-pointer Thursday in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The teams traded blows from the get-go when Dallas opened the scoring 38-37 in the first quarter. Things softened up a bit in the second, and Dallas went into the break with a 71–67 lead.

The Mavericks then put on a show. Irving opened the third quarter with a jumper. Doncic converted a three-pointer. The Dallas offense caught fire as it showed what one of the deadliest offensive duos in the game looks like when it’s at its fullest.

Less than four minutes into the stanza, the Mavericks went 20–4 to open a 91–71 lead. But there will be no explosion at the American Airlines Center.

Dallas defense, what is it

The Mavericks traded Dorian Finney-Smith in a deal with Irving, and with him, their defensive identity. Finney-Smith has been regularly tasked with guarding the opposition’s best player, which would come in handy on Thursday against a 76ers team that has plenty of offensive weapons in James Harden, Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris.

Dallas’ lack of a defensive stopper was evident as the 76ers responded with 17 consecutive points from the end of the third quarter to the first three minutes of the fourth, cutting the deficit to 110-106. Maxi did most of the damage, scoring 10 points during a stretch with Harden, Embiid and Harris mostly resting on the bench.

Doncic also rested, and the Mavericks did not respond during the run. When Doncic returned with 9:20 left, he and Irving ignited Dallas again as the Mavericks closed.

First game with two 40-point attempts in Mavericks history.

Doncic finished with 42 points and 12 assists, shooting 13 of 22 from the field, including 7 of 13 from three-point range. Irving had 40 points and six assists while shooting 15 of 22 field goals, including 6 of 8 of 3. It was the type of offensive rhythm that Mavs owner Mark Cuban must have dreamed of when he gave the green light to Irving.

Dallas’ defensive failures were also on full display. Philadelphia made 57.7% of field goals and 44.4% (12 of 27) from three-point range. Embiid, Harden and Maxi enjoyed every hit from the field by more than 50%. Harden finished with 27 points, Maxi scored 29, and Embiid led the 76ers with 35 points and eight rebounds.

It wasn’t enough for the 76ers that night when Doncic and Irving pushed things into overdrive. The problem with the Mavericks is that they needed just about every ounce of that offensive firepower to get away with a win.


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