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3 things we learned as the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Orlando Magic, 112-98

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The Mavericks are above .500 for the first time this season.

Orlando Magic v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Orlando Magic, 112-98, on Saturday night in Dallas to move up to 5-4 on the season. Both teams were missing a significant portion of their roster, whether that be due to injury in the Magic’s case or COVID-19 protocols for the Mavericks. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. put on a shooting clinic, scoring 29 and 36 points, respectively. Nikola Vucevic led all Magic players with 30 points.

The Mavericks and Magic began the contest trading buckets, and a couple of Hardaway threes put the Mavericks up 17-14. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle opted to put in a completely new second unit, and it stayed hot, going up 25-19 with three minutes to go. Luka Doncic came back in after a short rest, and helped the Mavericks build a 36-27 lead.

Turnovers of all types began to pile up in the second, including stepping out of bounds, travels, and offensive fouls, which allowed the Magic to hang around. Burke, hot in the first quarter, stayed perfect, pushing the Mavericks lead to 51-42. The Magic finally hit a couple threes to end the quarter only down 56-50.

The Mavericks started the third quarter very sloppy, and let the Magic hit two threes that tied the game at 59 each. Carlisle subbed out Doncic and brought in Johnson and Burke, and the new energy helped Hardaway score 11 quick points to give the Mavericks back the lead, 72-67. A last second, deep, fadeaway Luka three put the Mavericks up 85-75.

Burke continued to shoot the lights out in the fourth quarter, with soul-crushing threes that gave the Mavericks a game-high lead of 14 with seven minutes to go. Two late-game Willie Cauley-Stein made free throws gave the Mavericks an 11 point lead with three minutes remaining and just one more solid stretch necessary to close the game. Luka was able to draw a couple more fouls, and completed his triple double with an assist to Hardaway, as the Mavericks won 112-98.

Some thoughts:

Tonight was a great example of “Next Man Up”

The uncertain realities of this year’s season quickly created the first roadblock for the Mavericks, with a positive COVID-19 result forcing Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Jalen Brunson to quarantine for at least 10 days.

This was a question of “when”, not “if”, and in response the Mavericks front office stressed the importance of having a long bench of players who could step up whenever their teammates would miss time. Carlisle, often touted for his on-the-fly adjustments, was unafraid to give first-round pick Josh Green a full 15 minutes of playing time tonight, along with Wes Iwundu, who played 32 minutes. Fortunately, when Luka Doncic is in the game, more often than not his teammates will be in a position to succeed, and they capitalized tonight.

The Mavericks defense held another opponent to fewer than 100 points

One of Luka’s stated goals for this season was to shed the label of being a non-factor on defense, and tonight’s game was a stride in the right direction. He put in significant effort to be a handsy defender, and was able to strip the ball from the Magic ball handler on at least three different occasions. The most impressive of these was a one-on-one transition situation in the second quarter, where Luka tracked the driving James Ennis III, stripped the ball, and recovered it to begin a new offensive possession.

Doncic wasn’t the only Maverick who showed some impressive defensive flashes. Iwundu, a former Magic player, got significant playing time tonight due to the COVID related DNP’s for Brunson, Richardson, and Finney-Smith. He provided effective on-ball pressure on Magic players, while also able to effectively switch, especially in scramble situations. This was on display in a late shot-clock situation in which Iwundu provided help defense on Cole Anthony that forced him to pass the ball to Terrence Ross, who Iwundu immediately recovered onto, forcing Ross to commit a 24 second violation.

Trey Burke played Orlando like he was in the Orlando Bubble

Apparently all Burke needed to see were the Disney logos on the Orlando Magic jerseys, because he was simply on fire. He was perfect from the three-point line until a misguided shot to end the third quarter, going 7-for-8 on the night from three. He displayed great agility that exploited the Magic close outs to the three point line, resulting in easy layups, too.

His final scoreline exemplifies his role as a “get-buckets” guy, as the only other statistical contributions he had were four assists. Still, that role is invaluable in certain situations, as when the Mavericks started the third quarter ice cold, he came in and made an immediate impact. He had a non-COVID illness that kept him out of Thursday’s matchup against the Nuggets, but showed no signs of an ailment tonight.

A quick shout-out goes to Hardaway, who had a shooting night similar to his performance against the Rockets, going 8-of-13 from three. Those two Mavericks clearly had a hot hand, but they were also wide open on a number of those, thanks to Doncic’s ability to pass out of almost every double team by the Magic.

The New Orleans Pelicans visit the Mavericks on Monday for a 7:30pm CST game, which can be watched on NBA TV or League Pass.

Here’s the postgame podcast, Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you can’t see the embed below “More from Mavs Moneyball”, click here. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe by searching “Mavs Moneyball podcast” into your favorite podcast app.