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The Mavericks begin their post-break quest for relevance tonight at home against an Orlando team that is one for its last ten. One could also argue that the Magic, with a young team, fifteen wins and a Dwight Howard-shaped hole to fill also doesn't have all that much to play for. In other words, favorable conditions.
But conditions aren't enough. Given how much ground the Mavericks need to make up, this one, like many to come, qualifies as a must win. They're playing better and coming together as a team--the last 4 games have included 25+ point nights from Mayo, Vince Carter and Shawn Marion, and Dirk Nowitzki, who had a 24 point night, is apparently rounding into form--but there's only about a third of the season to go.
Another interesting feature is that it might be the last day in current uniform for some of the guys out there, as the trade deadline looms tomorrow at 3. JJ Redick, on an expiring 6 million dollar deal, likely does not fit into the Magic's future plans, despite how well he's played this season. Various Mavericks have come up in trade conversations.
The Mavericks will have to watch out for the Magic guards, Afflalo and Redick, who can fill it up, while battling the young, talented Nikola Vucevic on the boards. Vucevic has put up some monstrous games lately, including a 15-14 night, 25-13, 17-19, and 18-11. Andrew Nicholson, a talented player that some had going to the Mavs, has also seen increased playing time and increased productivity of late, 13-7 over the last five.
For the Mavs, the story is the same. Keep turnovers down, and find the right shot. Collison, Carter, Mayo and Marion have all been scoring well of late, but if the Mavs are to have any hope of making the playoffs, they must do what they've always done. After a long rough patch, efficiency wise, Dirk Nowitzki has shot 61% over the last two games and must be the centerpiece of the Mavericks offense going forward.