The undermanned 76ers once again held off an underwhelming opponent.
This time, it was a 106-100 victory Saturday night over the Dallas Mavericks at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers saw their commanding 19-point, fourth-quarter lead shrink to four points with 50 seconds remaining.
However, Joel Embiid and Furkan Korkmaz combined to make four foul shots down the stretch as they held on to their six-point victory.
Embiid finished a game-high 25 points and Ben Simmons notched his sixth triple-double, as the Sixers (26-14) extended their winning streak to three games. The win was similar to Wednesday’s, when the Sixers had a commanding 30-point lead before escaping with a 132-127 road victory at Phoenix.
The Mavericks (18-21) have lost three of their last four games. They also dropped to a league-worst 3-18 on the road.
The Sixers were without swingman Jimmy Butler and power forward Wilson Chandler for the second straight game. Both are sidelined with upper-respiratory infections.
As a result, Korkmaz and power forward Jonah Bolden again joined Embiid, Simmons, and JJ Redick in the starting lineup.
Simmons finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists. He secured the triple-double when he grabbed an offensive rebound with 3 minutes, 30 seconds left in the third quarter. That was his 10th rebound, to go with 16 points and 11 assists at that point.
This marked the fourth triple-double in 10 games for the reigning rookie of the year. His six triple-doubles rank second in the NBA, behind Russell Westbrook’s 11 with Oklahoma City.
Asked what has been different for him in those 10 games, Simmons replied: “Just being more aggressive, I think, when I take more shots. They have to play me a different way, and I think teams are starting do that.
“So it’s easier for me to read the defense and just give teams a different look when they’re guarding me.”
Simmons made nine of 17 shots on the night. He went 3-for-7 on shots from 6 feet and out. He opened the game by making a 6-foot turnaround fadeaway jumper. Then he made a 10-foot turnaround hook shot with 1.4 seconds before intermission. And he made a 9-foot turnaround jumper with 7:10 left.
“He hasn’t been making it, but he’s been taking it. That’s what matters,” Embiid said of Simmons' starting to shoot jumpers. "I shot 30 percent from three, but guys still jump when I shot-fake. ... Just because you take them, people are compelled to guard that.
“So he’s got to keep on taking them, and naturally it’s going to go in.”
In addition to his game-high points, Embiid had 12 rebounds for his league-best 34th double-double of the season. The All-Star center also had five assists and one block. Meanwhile, Redick had 20 points, while Bolden had career high of 11 points, three assists, and two blocks, along with a career-high tying nine rebounds.
Wesley Matthews paced Dallas with 18 points. Rookie guard Luka Doncic added 14 points, while making just four of 16 shots. Former Villanova standout Jalen Brunson, another rookie, had 13 points off the bench.
The Sixers had a commanding 19-point cushion with 11:09 left. However, the Mavericks pulled to within seven points (98-91) on Dennis Smith Jr.'s layup with 1:48 remaining. Korkmaz and Matthews traded three-pointers on the ensuing possessions.
Then, after a Sixers turnover, Doncic buried a three-pointer to cut the lead to 101-97. Then Simmons and Dwight Powell traded foul shots to make the score 102-98. Embiid sank a pair of foul shots with 28.7 seconds left to make it a 104-98 game and Korkmaz added a pair of free throws to give the Sixers an eight-point cushion before Powell’s layup set the final margin.
“It was a great win," Embiid said. “Once again, we got to make the game interesting. We got a big lead, and they came back towards the end. It was fun.”