Friday – Mavericks @ Magic
The Magic come out of the All-Star Break record with a 24-31 record, but they’re still somewhat comfortably in the 8th and final playoff seed in the East. After making the playoffs as a seventh seed last season, it would be nice for the franchise to be able to say that they’ve made the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since their Dwight Howard-fueled run of the late 2000’s through early 2010’s, but what are they really doing? Orlando has plenty of very nice players that any team would take on their roster, but they lack that blue chip piece to truly build a contender around.
On the court this season, Orlando is far from an offensive highlight package. They are 29th in the league with 103.9 PPG and rank 28th at pace of play. They also rank in the bottom five in basically all shooting categories. The reason they’re able to be competitive is because of their defense that allows opponents the fewest points per game in the league at 105.4 and they’re ranked seventh overall in defensive rating.
Matchup to watch: Look out for angry Aaron Gordon
Of course we all saw Gordon lose the Slam Dunk Contest in controversial fashion on Saturday night. After getting 50’s on his first five dunks of the night, Gordon’s final drunk over 7’5 Tacko Fall received a 47 and the Heat’s Derrick Jones Jr. was awarded the crown. Perhaps this travesty will fuel Gordon to come out swinging for the second half of what has been a disappointing season for the 24-year-old.
– Dylan Duell
Lucky for the Mavericks, they get to be his first shot at redemption coming out of the break.
Saturday – Mavericks @ Hawks
The Mavericks begin the 2nd half of the season with a back-to-back against the Orlando Magic and the Atlanta Hawks. Dallas opened up the month of February by defeating the Hawks 123-100 in a game that Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis both did not play in. Jalen Brunson was the teams leading scorer with 27 points. Atlanta took a 15-41 record into the break after losing five of their last seven. Since these teams last played, the Hawks added Clint Capela and Dewayne Dedmon at the center position at the trade deadline.
The Hawks open the 2nd half on Thursday against the Miami Heat.
Matchup to watch: Trae Young vs. Mavs defense
For the season, Trae has played better at home this season averaging three more points per game while shooting 3% higher from three. Since being held to 12 points (1-6 from 3) and one assist in the February 1st matchup against the Mavs, Young has averaged 35.2 points per game and 10.4 assists per game in five games. Young has shot 10+ free throws in all five games. For a shooter like Trae, he’s going to make shots but Dallas must make him take contested looks and keep him off the free throw line.
– Corey Douglass
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