DALLAS – Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid played a major part in making a game with two teams combining for two wins heading into the game interesting.
It all started when Noel, the Mavericks' starting center, said Thursday night that he was "going to come at" the 76ers center in Saturday night's game at the American Airlines Center. Embiid responded by telling Noel on Saturday morning that he was "going to cook your ass."
The friendly banter between best friends and former Sixers teammates didn't quite live up to the hype in Philly's 112-110 victory. That's because the game was more of a three-point contest that came down to the final second than a battle between centers.
Embiid did, however, suffer a bruised right hand in the matchup. The center's X-rays after the game were negative.
But Harrison Barnes' three-pointer with 8.9 seconds left pulled the Mavericks within one point, 111-110.
Jerryd Bayless split a pair of foul shots with 6.6 seconds remaining to give the Sixers a two-point cushion. The Mavs had a chance to knot the score with 0.2 second left. But Yogi Ferrell missed the front end of a pair of foul shots. He purposely missed the second, but Noel couldn't control the tip as time expired.
The Sixers (2-4) made a season-high 16 three-pointers in 35 attempts (45.7 percent). Meanwhile, the Mavs (1-6) made 19 of 40 (47.5 percent).
There were stretches when the Mavs (1-6) went small and put Dirk Nowitzki at center to guard Embiid, with Noel on the bench. And Ben Simmons, one of only two Sixers to not attempt a three-pointer, stole the spotlight.
The Sixers' rookie point guard finished with 23 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, three steals, one block and just one turnover. Eight of his points came in the fourth quarter. He also scored eight points in the first quarter.
Embiid also finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and seven turnovers in 29 minutes, 22 seconds. Noel had four points and four rebounds in 19:56.
Barnes led all scorers with 25 points after making 7 of 12 three-pointers.
Dario Saric made a team-high four threes to go with 12 points in his first start of the season for the Sixers. The power forward got the start because guard J.J. Redick missed the game with lower-back tightness. So Saric joined Robert Covington, Embiid, Bayless and Simmons in the starting lineup.
Aside from the back-and-forth hype between centers, the game provided Noel and Justin Anderson an opportunity to see familiar faces.They were traded for each other in February.
On Friday, Noel had dinner with several former teammates, including Simmons and Richaun Holmes. Just like with Embiid, the center has remained close to those two. And Noel has appreciation for his time with the Sixers, despite losing his starting job and living through three seasons of tanking.
"It was a great learning experience," he said. "I love the city, love the fans and the people there. Regardless of what I went through, it was a great experience."
The 23-year-old said he grew as a man in Philadelphia.
However, Noel basically forced the trade to Dallas in order to get an opportunity to start. Sixers coach Brett Brown said that he likes seeing Noel playing a significant role with the Mavs.
"The history that we have all had with Nerlens, everybody understands," Brown said. "And Nerlens is one of these people that's very endearing … I wish him well."
Meanwhile, Anderson' spent 1 ½ seasons with the Mavs after they selected him with the 21st overall pick in 2015 out of Virginia.
"Obviously, coming back to the place that drafted me, to the place that kind of took me in, coddled me like a little baby of theirs, I grew a lot here," said Anderson, who finished with three points and five rebounds. "It was tough with the trade and everything, but I think everything worked out for a reason.
"I'm in a great place here in Philadelphia."
Redick said his back isn't a major issue and that he's listed day-to-day.
Holmes said he's scheduled to make his season debut on Friday against the Indiana Pacers at Wells Fargo Center.