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3 things to watch for when the Mavericks host the Magic

The Mavericks are back at the AAC after facing the Grizzlies on the road Friday night.

Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks (23-19) finish up a back-to-back Saturday night when they play host to the Orlando Magic (8-35), after their battle with the red-hot Memphis Grizzlies Friday. The Magic, who beat the Charlotte Hornets last night, just snapped a 10-game losing streak. Quite the contrast in opponent from the Mavericks 112-85 battle against Ja Morant & co. on national television — snapping their franchise-record 11-game win streak.

The Mavericks have played well of late, snagging double digit victories against the Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls, and Memphis Grizzlies in the month of January. Now they enter what should be a string of winnable games in a very tight window: starting back on January 12 (loss to the New York Knicks) the Mavericks will play six games in nine days.

Old familiar face, new young players

For many Mavericks fans over the summer, their choice for Rick Carlisle’s replacement as head coach was right their in the Dallas locker room. Then-assistant Jamahl Mosley had the experience, plus what looked to be a stellar relationship with Luka Doncic, to take over sideline duties for the Mavericks. It quickly became clear Mark Cuban and the front office had other ideas in mind, and Mosley soon found a position with the Magic.

This is a young Magic squad. They are the third youngest roster in the league, and outside of Gary Harris and Terrence Ross their core rotation features players all 23-years-old and under. Jalen Suggs, one of two rookie starters for Mosley’s squad (Franz Wagner the other), is returning from a 20-game absence due to injury.

Expect the Mavericks (second slowest pace in the league) to dictate the rhythm of the game with their depth of experience on both sides of the ball.

Taking care of the ball

Common from a young team is trouble taking care of the basketball. The Magic are 21st in offensive turnover-percentage, and they haven’t done themselves many favors by ranking 23rd in defensive turnover-percentage. The Mavericks have improved defensively though they still aren’t creating a high rate of turnovers — but on the flipside, they take care of the ball (fifth in offensive turnover-percentage).

Both teams will be coming off playing Friday night, and both teams travelled coming into tonight’s matchup. Uncharacteristic turnovers or a lack of focus could haunt one or both teams tonight.

Taking care of business

As mentioned before the Mavericks are in a tough stretch of scheduling, with games packed on top of each other and top tier opponents sprinkled in between stretches of lottery bound teams. The Mavericks haven’t been at full strength for quite some time, and even still will need to find moments for Doncic and others to sneak in a night’s rest.

With that sort of roster juggling, and the All-Star break on the horizon, it can be easy to overlook these kind of matchups. If the Mavericks have really taken a step forward, and it seems they have, these are the games that will keep them in the driver’s seat and help them avoid the play-in tournament. While the Magic may not be a tough opponent, that will be the real test in tonight’s game.

How to watch

Tip-off is set for 8:30 p.m. CST and be watched locally on Bally Sports Southwest, and NBA League Pass nationally.