Orlando, FL – The Dallas Mavericks went into the All-Star Break on a sour note; losing in overtime to the Utah Jazz on February 9th as a result of Gordon Hayward‘s devastating buzzer beater. The loss sunk Dallas to 29-26 and left them with what was sure to be a disgusting taste in their mouth headed into their week and a half break before the next time they hit the hardwood.
Dallas will begin their “second half” of the season in the Magic Kingdom on Friday night when they take on an Orlando Magic team (23-29) who was anything but quiet during the All-Star break.
The Magic did some major work with trades before Thursday’s trade deadline as they shipped out veteran Channing Frye as part of a three team trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trail Blazers that netted them former Maverick Jared Cunningham and a second round draft pick. Earlier in the week, they received Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova from the Detroit Pistons for 23-year-old winger Tobias Harris. After both Jennings and Ilyasova practiced with the Magic for the first time Thursday, it is expected the pair will be available for Friday’s matchup with Dallas.
This is the first time the two teams have met this season. The Mavs have won their last seven games against the Magic and have also come out victorious in each of their previous nine trips to Orlando.
Key matchup: Mavs Big Men against Nikola Vucevic
It would be hard to find a more under the radar/overlooked rising star in this league than Magic center Nikola Vucevic. Since being a part of the Dwight Howard trade that sent him to Orlando after a decent rookie season with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Switzerland-native has averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds while shooting over 51% from the field in three and a half seasons with the Magic. Vucevic’s ascent to an elite NBA center earned him a four year extension before the 2014-2015 season that will keep him in Orlando through 2019.
While Zaza Pachulia has done a solid job on defense against elite big men so far this season, he might be facing his biggest challenge yet when he has to slow down an athletic big like Vucevic who’s capable of things like this. Sorry, Pau Gasol.
Losing four out of five games heading into the break should provide a ton of motivation for the Mavs to come out firing. Friday will begin a very favorable stretch of schedule for Dallas: An eight game run where seven opponents will be under .500 and there will be a season long six game homestand against the likes of the 76ers, Timberwolves and Nuggets. The Mavs begin their postseason push three games back of the Grizzlies for the fifth spot in the West standings and two games up on the Jazz and Rockets who are tied for the 8th seed.
Point guard Devin Harris, who has missed the last nine games due to a toe injury, was back on the practice court Thursday. Coach Carlisle was quoted saying Harris is “50-50” to play in Friday’s contest.
Rookie Justin Anderson got his biggest chance during Harris’ absence to make an impression on Carlisle and his coaching staff. The 6’6” wing from the University of Virginia has averaged over 14 minutes a game in February compared to just below 9 per game for the season. He may have to take a step back in the rotation upon Harris’ return.
Chandler Parsons, a central Florida native, will be appearing in just his fifth career game against the Magic. He has averaged 16.5 points per game in the first four appearances. After their recent trades have created a boatload of potential cap room for the Magic this summer, it’s widely believed that they could be one of the Mavs’ biggest competitors for Parsons should he opt out of the final year of his deal and become an unrestricted free agent.
How To Watch:
With a game on the East coast, it’s an early tip-off. Mavericks and Magic will get underway at 6 PM on Fox Sports Southwest and on 103.3 KESN.