With Dirk Nowitzki slated to miss his seventh straight game, the Mavericks will try to end the Magic’s eight-game winning streak. Earl K. Sneed previews the matchup.
DALLAS — There’s a lot of similarities between the 2010-11 Orlando Magic and the 2009-10 Dallas Mavericks.
Like last season’s Mavericks squad, the new-look Magic saw the need to shake things up, making two mid-season trades to bring in the likes of Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark.
The ‘09-10 Mavericks did the same thing, working out an All-Star Weekend trade with Washington to bring in the trio of Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood. After an initial loss, that Mavericks team reeled off 13 straight victories. And the Magic has seen similar success right away, winning eight straight games — including a runaway 110-95 home win against Houston Friday night — since a 105-99 loss to the Mavericks in the new Amway Center on Dec. 21.
“They’re playing great,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said of the Magic. “The last time they lost was to us. So, the last two weeks they’ve been playing not good basketball, they’ve been playing great basketball. And each game they get a little better as their familiarity increases.”
“If you look at what Orlando did, they really made a move to solidify their position,” guard Jason Terry added. “I mean, that roster they have over there is high quality.”
The Mavericks found out how capable the Magic and the new additions are first-hand, although the team from Big D did sneak away with the victory in a game in which Dirk Nowitzki passed Larry Bird for 25th on the all-time scoring list.
But just a game later, Nowitzki would suffer a sprained right knee injury. He hasn’t played since, and he will miss his seventh straight game while sitting out Saturday night’s rematch with the Magic. The team is just 2-4 without its leading scorer.
“It’s been a frustrating time for me, obviously, watching from the sideline,” Nowitzki said. ”We lost a bunch of games where I think I could have helped in the fourth quarter. So, it’s been frustrating. But the team’s been holding it down. They’ve been playing hard.”
“[Nowitzki] is handling it as well as a guy in his position can to me,” Carlisle added. “His activity level has gradually increased, but he’s just not at the point where he’s gonna play.”
Nowitzki hopes to return to the court next Wednesday night when the Mavericks begin a four-game road trip in Indiana. In the meantime, the Mavs must also make up for the loss of Butler, after the swingman underwent what is expected to be a season-ending surgery to repair a ruptured right patellar tendon.
And although center Tyson Chandler, forward Shawn Marion and Stevenson are just a few players that have elevated their individual games with Butler and Nowitzki sidelined, their has clearly been a void in the Mavericks’ lineup since the two stars went down.
Still, the Mavs will try to snatch a second win against the Orlando squad, this time at home. But if that is to happen, the Mavericks know that they must first find a way to contain Magic center Dwight Howard inside.
Although the players that were shipped to Orlando have gotten plenty of attention lately, the Magic’s attack at both ends of the floor begins and ends with Howard in the middle.
In the December meeting, the big man exploded for a monster 26-point, 23-rebound night in a losing effort. And Chandler knows that he will have to lead the charge to keep Howard from repeating that effort as the Mavericks try to conclude a three-game homestand with a 2-1 record.
“I’ve definitely got to make it tough for him,” Chandler said in anticipation of his duel with Howard inside. “I’ve got to force him into some tough shots. It always comes down to me making his night tough.”
Chandler has tallied three straight double-doubles, including his 14 points and season-high tying 18 rebounds in a 99-95 loss to Oklahoma City Thursday night. But Carlisle says that while the bulk of the load of stopping Howard will fall on the broad shoulders of Chandler and Haywood, it will be the entire team’s responsibility to keep the Orlando big man from dominating inside.
“We’re gonna have to keep a body on him all the time,” Carlisle explained will be the key to stopping Howard. “Being able to deal with him and go find their 3-point shooters to take away their rhythm is one of the real challenges…We’ve got a lot guys and a lot of big bodies. And we’ll throw as many guys as we need to at him.”
And although his banged-up team heads into the matchup against one of the NBA’s hottest teams undermanned, Carlisle adds that he still has plenty of confidence in the players that will take the floor, as the Mavs try to rebound from a tough loss to the Thunder while also taking the court without two of their best players in an attempt at ending the Magic’s winning streak.
“I view it as an opportunity for other guys to step up, and for us to work on our game when we don’t have those guys,” Carlisle concluded. “I mean, you’ve got to be positive in these situations. And my belief in these other guys has never been higher.”
Note: Trying to sweep the season series, the Mavericks will conclude their three-game homestand against the Magic Saturday night at the American Airlines Center. The matchup will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting the American Airlines Center box office, logging on to Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287).
Stay connected with Dallas Mavericks inside reporter Earl K. Sneed by clicking "like" on his Facebook page or by following him on Twitter. Got a question for EKS? Send your question, along with your first name, last initial, city and state with the subject line "Ask EKS" to email@example.com, and you could be published on Mavsfastbreak.com, the Mavericks' new official blog site.
The Mavs and Hard Rock caf¨¦ are offering the perfect Holiday gift for the Mavs fan in your life. For a limited time, purchase the Mavs Hard Rock Holiday Special including 4 great games, three collectible bobbleheads and a $20 Hard Rock gift card. Plans start as low as $110. Buy your plan today at Mavs.com or 214-747-MAVS.
Looking to take the family out to a Mavs' game over the holidays at an affordable price? Well, look no further! Once again this year the Dallas Mavericks are offering Dr. Pepper "Family Night" ticket packages starting at $49 (includes 4 tickets and 4 McDonald's extra value meal coupons). For additional information, or to purchase your Family Night tickets please, click here or call 214-747-MAVS(6287).
Individual game tickets are on sale now. Tickets start as low as $2 and can be purchased at the American Airlines Center box office, on Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287). Get in on the action and be there for all the thrills!
Fans can visit Mavs.com or call 214.747.MAVS for more information and a complete listing of regular-season home games.