There was nothing that the Philadelphia 76ers did Friday night that surprised Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle.
From his vantage point, Carlisle expected the all-out blitz his team received from the short-handed Sixers. And he expected his team would have to claw and scratch for every point it could get.
What Carlisle didn’t expect was the Mavs playing like their hands were covered with lotion as they found a way to toss the ball all over the Wells Fargo Center. But once the Mavs calmed down and got out of their own way, they were able to cruise to a 124-112 win over the Sixers in the opener of a three-game road trip.
“It’s exactly the kind of game that we expected,” Carlisle said. “We expected it to be 48 minutes of hell with them chasing the ball all over the place, and we knew that ball security was going to be an important part of it.
“The first half was an unmitigated failure in that area. The second half [was] much better, and we were able to get some separation and finish it.”
The Mavs turned the ball over a season-high 25 times — leading to 34 points for the Sixers — with 17 of those turnovers coming in the first half. The miscues helped the Sixers narrow a 37-15 deficit they faced late in the first quarter to 77-73 midway through the third period.
But the Mavs finally settled down, got some big baskets from Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and DeJuan Blair and went on to increase their record to 33-23.
The Sixers traded away five players in four separate deals on Thursday and only suited up the NBA minimum of eight players. But they made life a bit hectic for the Mavs, who only held a 69-62 lead at the half.
“We knew they were going to make a run,” said Marion, who had 22 points on 11-of-14 shooting. “With all the trades they got going over there, they’ve still got some talented guys over there and they played hard.”
The Mavs shot 62.3 percent from the field and were so efficient in sharing the ball — when they hung onto it — that they distributed a whopping 39 assists on their 48 made field goals.
Meanwhile, Blair believes the Mavs were victims of their own early success and, after backing the Sixers into a quick corner, may have started wondering about Saturday night’s 6:30 game at Detroit.
“It’s tough because you lose focus, you think everything comes easy, and as you saw tonight, it doesn’t,” said Blair, who had 18 points in 16 minutes on 7-of-9 shooting. “Everything gets harder because you’ve got to sustain everything as you keep going, and that’s what we didn’t do.”
Consecutive baskets by Marion lifted the Mavs ahead 111-94 with 7:59 remaining in the game. Still, the Mavs knew they could have won going away had they protected the ball better.
“It’s the kind of game you have to adjust to the madness and the chaos that they’re trying to create, and they do a great job of it,” Carlisle said. “This is just an unusual brand of basketball in this league — I credit our guys for hanging in.”
Nowitzki popped in 14 of his team-high 25 points in the first quarter and ended the game converting 9 of 12 shots. Afterward, he was in no mood to discuss victories that are pleasing to the eye.
“We’re 1-0 on this trip, and that’s really all that mattered,” Nowitzki said. “Yeah, we could have done better in certain areas. Yeah, we could have gotten the win a little easier, but that’s not what matters.”