The Dallas Mavericks fell at home Friday night, losing to the Orlando Magic 110-105. Paulo Banchero led a balanced Orlando effort with 19. Christian Wood was the high point man for Dallas, scoring 23.
Dallas opened their lone home pre-season game with a starting unit of Luka Doncic, JaVale McGee, Reggie Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Jaden Hardy. After trading baskets early, the Magic stopped being able to score for most of the quarter and Dallas scored in every way imaginable, led by Doncic. The Mavericks built up a double digit lead quickly as Christian Wood, Maxi Kleber, and Tim Hardaway Jr. got in on the fun to finish the quarter. Wood in particular looked fresh, diving on the pick and roll, drawing fouls with ease. The Mavericks led 33-18 after one quarter.
The second frame opened with what will be a text book example of what Dallas hopes for with Christian Wood coming off the bench: Christian Wood leading the offense. The Mavericks continued to hold a large lead for much of the quarter, with the Magic hitting a few shots on an active Dallas defense. The kept pushing, chipping the lead into single digits around the five minute mark, then tying the game at 48 with three minutes left. Doncic and Dorian Finney-Smith helped Dallas take a 60-55 lead into the half.
Out of the half, with Doncic getting the rest of the game off, the remainder of the rotation Mavericks tried to keep the Magic at bay. Terrance Ross kept Orlando in the game, while Wood gave Dallas fans a taste of his talent with a variety of baskets. The back end of the bench started to get time, with McKinley Wright and two-way player Tyler Dorsey getting minutes. RJ Hampton’s last second shot pulled Orlando within one at quarter’s end. Dallas led 84-83 heading into the final frame.
The end of bench units took the floor for both teams and the Mavericks were simply unable to score for much of the quarter and had no success stopping the Magic. Tyler Hall finally found his first points as a Maverick, after missing his first seven shots. Hardy got to run the offense with Wright, to mixed results. Another three from Hall late gave Dallas a glimmer of hope after being down double digits, but it wasn’t enough. Dallas falls to the Orlando Magic, 110-105.
Christian Wood and Luka Doncic are going to work very well together
Since Wood’s a sixth man until further notice, we were only able to see limited Doncic-Wood minutes. It’s safe to say that these two are going to work on the offensive end. Wood’s hard dives off of pick and rolls drew a few fouls and his ability to stick the three off flares and pops may give opposing defenses heart attacks. The foul drawing is something to monitor moving forward as well, it’s one of those little things that can add up over the course of a game.
Jaden Hardy, starter
It’ll be worth paying attention to what coach Jason Kidd says about his starters after the game (if he says anything). Hardy getting the nod at off-guard next to Doncic was a fun choice and it’s hard not to read into it. Through a pair of preseason games, Hardy looks like he belongs on the floor with Dallas. The ability to bring Dinwiddie off the bench would help answer some of the ball-handling questions we’ve been asking since free agency, simply because Hardy would soak up some guard minutes and allow Doncic and Dinwiddie to play more time apart.
Again, it’s just preseason, but it’s something to think about. It still seems likely that Hardy spends a fair amount of time with the Legends. And yet, the back up point guard minutes are going to become an issue at some point over a long season, so Dallas needs to find as many potential answers as they can. Plus, I think many of us would like to see Hardy play NBA minutes if Dallas can stomach his inevitable learning curve.
More Wood thoughts
This was an elite offensive performance for Wood, where he connected on 8-of-12 shots including three of his six threes. While his threes were pretty (and will come to be a valuable portion of he and Luka’s connection, I think), his five makes inside the key were what I’ll be thinking about.
In the third quarter he made a dribble move from the left corner that lead to a beautiful shot and displayed the kind of dribbling skill we’ve simply not seen from bigs during the Luka Doncic era. He later had a post up in the key that ended in a soft 10 foot jumper. There’s just a lot to like about his offensive arsenal and hopefully the Mavericks find a means to take full advantage this season.
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