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The Difference: Mavericks 107, Magic 88

Box Score – Play-by-Play – Shot Chartimage_small

The Difference is a recap on the game that was, with one bullet point for every point in the final margin.

  • On top of competing-in-reverse for the top pick in the draft, the Orlando Magic were missing their top scorer tonight in Aaron Afflalo and starting center Nikola Vucevic. With such a diminished offense and inside presence, the Magic are about as vulnerable as a basketball team can get.
  • The Magic’s lack of a frontcourt was immediately apparent as they fouled Dirk Nowitzki often at the start of the game in attempts to deny him the ball. Without reliable length to defend Nowitzki, the Magic had to be overly aggressive.
  • Nowitzki began the game a perfect 3 for 3 from the field and 4 for 4 from the line. Then, Dirk collided with Tobias Harris at the end of the first half. Nowitzki came out somewhat flat in the third quarter, airballing his first attempt and frequently grabbing at his elbow. Nowitzki seemed to shake off the jitters by the fourth, but the next couple of days will establish whether there was a lasting injury.
  • Jae Crowder’s defensive chops are well-established, as his three steals in this contest will attest. But Crowder also used his starting opportunity and an advantageous matchup to get back into the shooting form he showed early in the season. Moving laterally off of screens or spotting up past the three point line, Crowder made quick, confident shots. He finished 6 of 8 for 14 points
  • The Mavericks have lately made a point of getting three point attempts, launching 28, 27 and 27 in the last three games. In this contest, the Mavericks hit on 13 of those tries for 48%.
  • As with their last game against the Magic, the Mavericks used a balanced scoring attack that saw six Dallas players score in double figures.
  • A team that starts Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo is bound to make rookie mistakes and they got plenty here. The Magic were rushing shots and twice players stepped out of bounds attempting plays along the baseline. The Magic are still building and it shows.
  • Samuel Dalembert got the start and his size against the diminutive Magic was a big factor before he picked up a fourth foul on Glen Davis. No one knew how he was going to get back in Rick Carlisle’s good graces after his recent missteps, but this game helped.
  • Glen Davis started slow, but picked up his game in the second and third quarters. Davis hit shot after shot over taller defenders, finishing with 19 points on 8 of 14 shooting.
  • Other than Davis, Jameer Nelson was the Magic’s only reliable offensive option. He finished with a team-high 21 points. Like Davis, he took tough shots against decent defense, but managed to put them in.
  • There are bad Ellis shots, like those coming from the left side of the basket where he was 1 of 7. Regrettably, these weren’t late-in-the-shot-clock heaves, but an overconfident Ellis launching it from where he has little success.
  • And there are good Ellis shots, such as when he drives into the teeth of the defense, ball already palmed and raised, ready for that last bit of fingertip curl to send it rain-dropping into the hoop. Or, even more spectacularly, another drive off a faked jump pass that got Harkless sprinting the wrong direction for an easy layup by Ellis. This was another exhibit of Ellis making awesome passes and drives and cringe-worthy jumpers. But, by mid-January, this routine is old-hat with Mavericks fans.
  • Brandan Wright had a mixed bag of a game.  Harris picked up an easy dunk when Wright was out of position with his back to the basket and Wright only hit one of his five field goal attempts.  But Wright also had a big block on Oladipo and pulled down six boards.
  • Gal Mekel and Ellis made great passes to Ellington who made great spot-up shots and finished with a season-high 12 points. Ellington’s role in this squad is questionable with Devin Harris’ imminent return, but that’s a combo I’d like to see repeated.
  • The Mavericks got the third quarter blues again. The Magic cut the Mavs lead to 10 early in the third. The Mavericks managed to extend the lead on a barrage of triples including a patented Nowitzki trailing three from the top of the arc, his only made field goal in the second half. They needed it just to match the Magic’s third quarter scoring at 25.
  • Vince Carter found his shooting rhythm tonight, particularly from long range. The Magic were giving Carter just enough breathing room to get the shot off and he took it every time, hitting 3 of 4 on three pointers and 6 of 10 overall.
  • Victor Oladipo will be a force in the NBA as a 6’-5” guard once he learns to use his size advantageously instead of doing things like nearly disintegrating Ellis on a charge.
  • DeJuan Blair deserves a mention for his team high seven rebounds and for two big offensive tip-outs on the same possession that eventually netted the Mavericks points.
  • After a tough home stand, the Mavericks were in need of a confidence-builder like the back-to-back against the depleted Pelicans and now one against the very depleted Magic. Their job gets significantly tougher with the next three games against winning teams.