The Dallas Mavericks (17-24) start the second half of the season with the lone trip to the Magic Kingdom as they take on the Orlando Magic (14-25). It’s a winnable game for the Mavericks, but they have to avoid a trap that is lingering in the background. After the game against Orlando, Dallas has four days off between games. I suppose Epcot Center is another trap, but I’m guessing the Mavericks are too old for that kind of tomfoolery.
The Mavericks begin the second half of year in Orlando 3.5 games out of last playoff spot. With their wins and the losses by Houston and Portland, Dallas has made up 3.5 games in one week. The playoff spot that seems well out of reach now can been seen. 41 games remain for the Mavericks and they must scratch and claw to do whatever it takes to get wins if they want to have a chance at getting in the tournament.
Here are the notes for the game between the Mavericks and the Magic.
The road team has won each of the last eight meetings between the Mavericks and the Magic. Dallas has taken eight of the last 11 overall meetings. The Mavericks and the Magic met once in 2011-12, at Orlando on Mar. 30, 2012 and Dirk Nowitzki hit a game-winning shot with 5.9 seconds left to give Dallas a 100-98 victory. Nowitzki drained a 15-foot fadeaway bank shot over the outstretched arms of Hedo Turkoglu to break a 98-98 tie. It marked the 11th time in his NBA career that Nowitzki made a game-winning basket in the final 10 seconds of a game, including the second time in 2011-12, he had a go-ahead layup with 5.1 seconds remaining at Boston on Jan. 11, 2012. Nowitzki finished with a game-high 28 points in 37 minutes at Orlando.
The Mavericks have won six straight road meetings with the Magic. The Magic’s last win over the Mavericks in Orlando came on Mar. 31, 2006, defeated Dallas, 108-99.
It’s a Small World:
Magic forward Al Harrington is the cousin of Mavericks guard Dahntay Jones. Vince Carter grew up in Daytona Beach, Fla., and played in 97 games with the Magic from 2009-11, averaging 16.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 30.7 minutes. Carter was a teammate of Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn on the New Jersey Nets from 2004-06.
Mavericks point guard Darren Collison was a college teammate of Magic guard Arron Afflalo at UCLA for two seasons from 2005-07. Dominique Jones grew up in Lake Wales, Fla., and played his college ball at the University of South Florida. Magic big man Gustavo Ayon played his rookie season (2011-12) with Mavericks center Chris Kaman in New Orleans.
Mavericks assistant coach Darrell Armstrong was signed as a free agent by the Magic in 1994-95 and played nine seasons for Orlando from 1994-2003. Armstrong won the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award and the Sixth Man of the Year Award with the Magic in 1998-99, becoming the first player in NBA history to win both awards simultaneously.
1. Bring the defensive disposition to Orlando. When the Orlando Magic score 90 points or more this season, they have a record of 14-13. When they fail to reach the 90-point mark, they are 0-12. From the field, Orlando is shooting 45.6 percent, which ranks eighth in the NBA.
2. Contain an emerging presence in Nikola Vucevic. The second-year center is starting to find his way in the league. Vucevic is one of only 11 NBA players currently averaging a double-double at 11.6 points per game and 11.1 rebounds per game. Since Dec. 14, Vucevic is averaging 13.9 points and 13.8 rebounds, recording 13 double-doubles during that span.
3. If you get the fourth quarter lead, protect it. In January the Mavericks have played 10 games, they have led in the fourth quarter of all 10. Unfortunately for them, they have gone 5-5 in those games. Dallas continues their trek of trying to learn how to close out games. With a playoff spot still within reach, they need to figure out how to get it done. In related news, the Orlando Magic have lost six of their last 14 games by four points or less.
Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.