Mavericks fall to motivated Magic, 102-94

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dirk-and-Monta Show continued, but the Mavs couldn't quite sustain against an Orlando Magic team that came out gunning.

The Mavericks hosted the Orlando Magic tonight in the third preseason game. The starters got about three quarters of burn, and there were certainly a lot of things to like, and a lot of things to work on. So...you know...preseason!

For the third game in a row, Dirk had the first points of the game, getting the Mavs out to a 2-0 lead - the only lead they would have for a long while. With Marion getting a rest day today, the Mavs' starting five of Mekel, Ellis, Crowder, Dirk and Dalembert struggled on defense early, despite a couple of early steals by Dalembert and Crowder. But the Mavs had little answer for Magic rookie Oladipo, and Mekel quickly got overmatched, looking slow and lacking confidence.

Despite a number of scoring opportunities, the Mavs had no answer for a quick and athletic Orlando defense. A few substitutions later and the Magic suddenly had an 22-2 run and were up 30-10. But towards the very end of the quarter, the Mavs finally found a little bit of a groove with a 9-0 run. Vince drained a 3, a couple Orlando turnovers and some Dirk free throws on a foul, and the Mavs got back on track.

The defense finally found a little bit of an identity towards the middle of the second. And once Monta Ellis scored his first points, also about halfway through the quarter, the Dirk-Monta two man game was especially fun to watch. Dirk even got into the defense party a little bit, with a stuff and an off-dribble jumper at the other end. Carter continued to do his thing coming off the bench - he had a particularly fun fake off the three to find Ellis on the pick and roll for a three towards the corner.

Halftime had the Mavs down only by four, despite Orlando shooting 50% to the Mavs' 39.5%. The Mavs won the first half turnover battle though, 7 to 14.

The third quarter started strong, with the Mavs continue their run from the second and Dirk going absolutely bonkers. He scored right away on a Mekel assist, had another block for three(!) total, took a beautiful step into a three. 

The Mavs finally took their first lead of the game since the opening basket at around seven minutes left in the third. Mekel had a really nice find on a behind the back pass to Ellis for a three. The Mavs had an 18-4 run at one point and were up by as much as seven points, but Orlando finally started answering and the Mavs' lead was only one going into the fourth.

The fourth saw most of the starters sit, with Devin Ebanks, DeJuan Blair, Mekel, Bernard James and Wayne Ellington starting the quarter. Got pretty unsurprisingly sloppy and not terribly much to write home about, as the Orlando camp guys took the lead and never gave it back. 

Some observations:

  • It's hard to see Mekel playing regular minutes at point even as the backup point once Calderon comes back. He does occasionally make a good find, but he needs to know his personnel better, find more confidence in his shot, and know his limitations (i.e., taking a floater or dropping it off rather than trying to drive to the rim). One of my colleagues pointed out that we may see a lot of Ellis backing up Calderon if Larkin isn't ready and Mekel continues to struggle in preseason.
  • Hard not to get crazy excited about Dirk and Monta, no? Forty points between the two of them in three quarters, and they execute that two-man game beautifully. Even though it's only preseason, there is a lot of reason for optimism, as this is exactly the type of play the Mavs could not execute last year with the roster they had.
  • Of the fourth quarter "D-League" guys (minus Mekel), Ledo also got a little playing time early in the second quarter. He only had one noticeable play early, a called goaltend, but it was a play that did show some great athleticism. Later in the fourth he had nice play to force a turnover. It feels like they are trying to give him some conscious looks, and though he's not likely to be anywhere other than the D-League, it continues to be a storyline I'm interested to watch.
  • Orlando had 28 turnovers to the Mavs' 12, and still won pretty handily. Again, hard to react/overreact to a preseason game, but I would really like to see them take advantage of that kind of disparity. Also, how weird is it that the Mavs didn't have more turnovers than the other team? Maybe they were just confused by that.
  • Center play is going to be a concern with Wright out indefinitely, as it's starting to become clear that Wright is one of the more important players in the plan this year. Dalembert had an okay game, I guess - but there were a number of plays where he couldn't finish at the rim or get the tip-in despite some pretty good looks, and rebounding was not great. Get well soon, B-Wright. The team needs you badly.

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