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3 things to watch for as the Mavericks clash with the Magic

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The Mavericks are rolling at home and welcome the Magic for the first time this season

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks (13-11) are resembling Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde so far this season. Looking like world beaters at home, Dallas has knocked off teams like the Thunder, Warriors, Celtics and Clippers en route to an 11-2 record at the AAC. The struggles on the road are glaring in comparison as the Mavericks have dropped games to the Suns and Hawks and have a 2-9 record away from Dallas.

Tonight the Mavericks welcome the Orlando Magic (12-14) to Dallas for the first time this season. The last tilt between these to teams was a tank-off for the ages. For the Mavericks, Aaron Harrison, Johnathan Motley and Kyle Collinsworth all played 34 minutes or more as the Mavericks dropped the game but inched closer to Luka Doncic. For Orlando, Wesley Iwundu and Jamel Artis received significant playing time. Let’s just be thankful the Mavericks shouldn’t be back in that dark place.

Both teams have made strides since last season, so basketball purists can rest easy knowing last year’s nightmares should stay away.

DJ versus Nikola Vucevic

Part of the Magic’s resurgence from last year can be credited to the domination of Vucevic. Now hitting the prime of his career, the 28-year-old is putting up career numbers. Through 26 games, Vucevic is averaging 21 points, 11 rebounds and nearly four assists per game with .551/.401/.840 shooting splits. Those are incredible numbers for the big man, and he should give DeAndre Jordan all he can handle. But we know a motivated Jordan is one of the best centers in the NBA. The question is which Jordan shows up. The Mavericks big man has been a human net on the boards as of late scooping up practically every missed shot. Jordan has collected 20 or more rebounds in two of the past four games, and the Mavericks will need that kind of effort once more to keep the Magic’s long, athletic front court off the glass.

Brunson’s third start

As of this writing, Dennis Smith Jr. is doubtful and set to miss another game with a sore wrist.

Jalen Brunson received his second NBA start against the Houston Rockets and filled in admirably. In 30 minutes, the Villanova product connected on 7-of-9 shots for 14 points with three assists and three steals while posting a team-high plus-11. That doesn’t come as a surprise to Rick Carlisle, who told our own Brice Paterik how Brunson is always ready, which is something Carlisle loves about the rookie. So presumably, the 22-year-old will get another nod in the starting lineup. In his past two games, the 33rd overall pick is averaging 12.5 points and five assists and is earning more playing time in each passing game.

Luka versus length

There was a time in the not too distant past that critics questioned if Luka Doncic could score against NBA caliber defenders. Those questions were quickly put to bed, but it will still be interesting to see how Doncic handles the length and athleticism that will be thrown at him at almost all times of the game. The Magic will be able to hound Doncic will an athletic player like Jonathon Simmons, then meet the rookie sensation at the rim with the long limbs of Jonathan Isaac or Mo Bamba. Any adversity Doncic has faced this season he’s usually overcome, but it will be interesting to see how Doncic creates space and gets his shot off.

How to watch

The game tips at 7:30 CT and can be watched on Fox Sports Southwest or NBA League Pass.