The Mavericks squeaked out a nail biter of a game last night, after another slow start. Luckily for the Mavs, neither team was able to get into much of a rhythm on the offensive end of the floor. The only difference being that the Magic were able to turn some of their defense into effective scoring opportunities, in what would turn into a common theme throughout the game, the Magic ended up with a total of 14 steals and 10 blocks that they were able to turn into 22 fast break points. Orlando played strong defense the whole night, lead strongly behind Jonathan Isaac who pitched in 6 blocks and 4 steals all by himself. In fact, Isaac would go on to have the best game of anyone on the floor, mercilessly stuffing the stat sheet with a particularly fat line of 13 points, 10 rebounds, 6 blocks, 5 assists and 4 steals in total. One steal away from the legendary 5×5, last done by Jusuf Nurkic for the Trail Blazers on Jan 1 last year, his final line was 24 points, 23 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals and 5 blocks. Aaron Gordon wasn’t bad for Orlando either though, ending with a team high 23 points on 10-17 shooting. Gordon contributed the majority of his input in the first half – scoring 8 of the Magic’s first 12 points and ending the first half 7/7 from the field. The final moments of the game would end up equalizing any first half heroics for Gordon, however, when he committed 2 inexcusable offensive fouls with his team down by one and looking to take the lead. Still, Orlando had a chance to win it on a Nikola Vucevic at the buzzer; a shot he missed.
Dallas did what they needed to do to stay in the game. Constantly closing any sizable lead that Orlando tried to pull away with. For the most part, the game stayed at a steady pace back and forth until the 3rd quarter. Orlando went on a quick 12-2 run in the early parts of the 3rd quarter, opening up their biggest lead of the game at 11. The Mavs responded, however, closing out the quarter on a 26-8 run of their own. The Magic would eventually catch them in the 4th, where the game would go back and forth again until it became obvious that Orlando wasn’t going to have an offense weapon that could close the game for them down the stretch. In the end, while a little credit is due to Dorian Finney-Smith and the Dallas defense making clutch plays, the Magic had a a few good chances to get ahead and to win the game – they simply couldn’t make the plays.
A Few Thoughts
- The Dallas Bench dominated again. In the first quarter, it was Justin Jackson scoring 9 points. Later in the half, Tim Hardaway Jr. would take over for a few possessions making good decisions and hitting open looks. For both players it was nice to see, the Mavs desperately need an additional player that can make plays with the ball in their hands. Powell coming back to the starting line-up and consequently pushing Maxi to the bench has had some additional depth to the bench as well. Kleber is known for ability to get defensive stops, but Dallas will need him to continue to hit open 3s like he did last night- especially when they are having an off shooting night like they were. He ended the game with a season high 14 points on 2/3 from deep. Even though he had the most points from the bench, though, the most exciting part of the #BENCHMOB had to have been…
- We got that JJ back! It was only fitting to have JJ return on an electric Seats for Soldiers night. Coming into the game when the energy for Dallas had been stale and immediately going 3/3 and putting up 11 points in just over 7 minutes of play got everyone to their feet. It occurred to me last night how well J.J. fits into this team. As an additional play-maker with the ball that can annihilate any team in the pick-and-roll, he’s exactly what Dallas needs. I couldn’t help by smile ear-to-ear. J.J. will be one of those myths we pass down to our younger MFFL generations. He’s a fable. They’ll write long epics about him one day and we will all read them and cry alone. We’ll be alone, but together. Because that’s what J.J. does. He brings people together. And saves the world.
- Seth Curry completely disappeared. He played a whopping 6 minutes, all but 7 seconds of which came in the first quarter. It wasn’t like he played bad either, scoring 5 of the Mavs first 9 points. I thought he may have gotten injured until I saw him back on the court with 7 seconds left in the game and Dallas up by 1. He was, of course, in there to shoot free throws…which he did…and both of which he missed. To have a player sit the whole game only to have them come in and shoot a couple clutch free throws is a typical Carlisle move; and one that has worked out in the past. It’s still baffling to me though. That’s a tough situation to put a player in, one that Curry obviously struggled with.
- Porzingis had another rough game. While ending only 2 rebounds shy of a double double, he just never seemed to be in the rhythm of the offense. Most, if not all, of his shots seemed forced and out of sync. There were a couple of plays in the game where he was out of position and his teammates couldn’t get him the ball – sometimes leading to turnovers. He ended up with 10 points on 4/14 from the field and 1/5 from deep and not adding much on the defensive end. He just looked frustrated. These types of streaks are to be expected as he works himself back from almost 2 years absence, but it is still disappointing to see him look so out of sorts.
This was a game that the Mavericks should have won. While the Magic aren’t nearly as bad as their start to the season may show, they lack play-makers down the stretch. They just didn’t have the firepower to close Dallas off and with the Mavericks’ consistently strong play off the bench keeping them within striking distance all night it was only a matter of time before Luka Doncic would come alive and help lead the Mavs to a victory. As a Mavs fan, it’s nice to have games that ‘should be won’ – and it’s even nicer to win them. Even with the questionable coaching decisions and lack of play from one of your superstars. Next up, DSJ and his Knicks on Friday – see you then.