The Mavericks are determined to make sure that the Magic don't experience as much instant success as Dallas did last season after making a blockbuster trade, writes Earl K. Sneed. Tuesday night, the Mavs take the court hoping to sweep their back-to-back in the state of Florida.
ORLANDO — It wasn’t that long ago that the Mavericks were in nearly the exact same position that the Orlando Magic now find themselves in heading into Tuesday night’s matchup between the two squads.
Last season, the Mavericks returned to the court following the All-Star break needing to integrate Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson into the fold, after the trio joined the team via a blockbuster trade with Washington. The Mavs dropped the first game that they played alongside the new additions, falling in a 99-86 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Feb. 16.
But that’s where the Mavericks (22-5) hope the comparisons end with the new-look Magic. That’s because those very same Mavs won the next 13 straight games following that initial loss, and this season’s Dallas squad doesn’t plan on the Magic starting a similar streak at their expense Tuesday night.
Like the 2009-10 Mavericks, the Magic (16-11) have retooled with added firepower, pulling off two weekend trades to bring in sharpshooter Gilbert Arenas from Washington as well as Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark from Phoenix. With the new players in uniform, the Magic suffered a 91-81 loss Monday night in Atlanta. And the Mavericks plan on handing the Magic another loss, this time on Orlando’s new Amway Center home floor, as both teams take the court on the second night of back-to-backs.
“Usually, right after a trade it’s tough,” Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki explained, “without practice or anything, so we’ll just have to see how they [the Magic] look.
“We did lose the first one in OKC after we made the trade,” the 7-footer added. “And then we started rolling, actually without practice time, which surprised me a little bit that we were actually playing off each other that well right way. So, I’ve seen it both ways. I’ve seen it where it takes some time and I’ve seen it where things start clicking right way. So, we just have to wait and see. But, definitely, I think they got very capable players.”
Though only one loss has come with the new Orlando core, the Magic is just 3-7 in the last 10 games, slumping even further on a three-game skid.
But in Arenas, Richardson and Turkoglu, the Magic has brought in both versatility and lethal scoring on the perimeter. The Magic has also added more play-making ability around All-Star center Dwight Howard.
“If you look at what Orlando did, they really made a move to solidify their position,” sixth man Jason Terry said. “I mean, that roster they have over there is high quality. That’s gonna be a tough game for us.”
“It’s gonna be full of challenges everywhere, but it is a fun trip,” Nowitzki added.
The Mavericks, however, have shown the ability to conquer any and nearly all challenges, especially on the road, where the team is 9-1 this season.
That was once again the case Monday night, when the Mavericks went into Miami and ended the Heat’s 12-game win streak on its home floor, sneaking out of the American Airlines Arena with a 98-96 win.
Now, the Mavericks hope to continue the hot play that has carried them to 15 wins in their last 16 games. And they also hope to do so once again as the visitors, a role the Mavs have taken a liking to over the last two seasons.
“We’ve got an Orlando team that’s gonna be energized by the trades, and we’re gonna have to play the same kind of game (as Monday night), but probably play better to win,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle explained.
“Our core group is pretty much all veterans and we take pride in going in other people’s gym and kicking their butt. And I think that’s the thing about us, it doesn’t matter where we’re at, we’re gonna rise to the challenge. And we feel like every time that we step on the road it’s a new challenge,” Terry said, after scoring all 19 of his points against the Heat in the fourth quarter to lift the Mavs to the win.
But if the Mavericks are going to continue the trend of dominance on the road, it may not come down to how the Magic’s new additions play Tuesday night.
According to the Mavericks’ off-season pickup, center Tyson Chandler, the game will come down to his individual matchup with Howard, who has recorded a double-double in seven of the Magic’s last eight games. The 7-foot-1 Chandler says that he can’t allow Howard to duplicate the 19-point, 20-rebound performance that he displayed in the Magic's loss to Atlanta.
“I mean, 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.”
And while Chandler battles with Howard in the painted area, Nowitzki will look to further cement himself in history as one of the game’s all-time greatest scorers. Nowitzki, who is in his 13th NBA season, will enter Tuesday night’s test just 10 points from tying Boston Celtics great Larry Bird for 25th on the league’s career-scoring list.
“If you would have told me that in 13 years I wouldn’t have believed it, obviously,” Nowitzki said of the pending feat. “It’s just been 13 years of great ups and downs, and I had a lot of fun doing it. I had some great teammates with me, so it was a blast. But stats like that, you’re gonna be more proud of once you look back in 10, 15, 20 years. You look back and I think that’s when it’s more special.”
Tuesday night will serve as yet another opportunity for Nowitzki and his Mavericks teammates to make special memories, as the team tries to go 2-0 on its back-to-back in the state of Florida before celebrating the Christmas holiday. And Nowitzki could receive an early Christmas present by passing one of the game’s most recognizable names on the scoring chart.
Note: The Mavericks travel to Orlando's new Amway Center for Tuesday night's face-off with the Magic, in a showdown that will air locally on TXA 21 at 6 p.m. CT.
After another road game in Oklahoma City on Dec. 27, the Mavericks return to the American Airlines Center for a date with the Toronto Raptors. That game will tip off at 7: 30 p.m. CT. 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).
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