The Dallas Mavericks (13-11), winners of nine straight home games, host the Orlando Magic (12-14) in a matchup between the league’s two current eight seeds. Tonight’s meeting marks the first of two meetings between Orlando and Dallas. The Mavericks will finish off the season series in March when they travel to Orlando. The Mavericks lead the all-time series 33–26. The home team has won seven consecutive games in this series.
To get you ready for tonight’s action let’s go through three things to watch as the Mavs take on the Magic.
The Legend of Luka
The 19-year-old Slovenian Wonderboy put on a show before a sold-out American Airlines Center on Saturday night against last year’s Western Conference runner-up Houston Rockets. After a slow start, shooting just 3 of 13 from the field through the first three quarters, Doncic caught fire in the final three minutes. He torched the Rockets, scoring 11 consecutive points for a personal 11-0 run.
Doncic seems very comfortable at the American Airlines Center, shooting 47 percent from the field, 8 percentage points higher than when he is on the road. He has struggled with his shot during December, converting just 15 of 39 attempts (38.5 percent) through three games.
Doncic will likely start tonight’s matchup with Jonathan Simmons as his primary defender.
The Bench Mob
The Mavericks have one of the best benches in the entire NBA. The lineup of J.J. Barea, Devin Harris, Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell & Maxi Kleber has been the fourth most used Mavericks lineup to date. As a unit, they have a net rating of plus-20.7 in 55 minutes of action together. Kleber enters tonight’s game with a questionable status due to a left toe sprain.
Barea leads the charge with his unique pick-and-roll ability with Harris, Finney-Smith & Maxi Kleber flanked on the perimeter as capable three-point shooters. Dwight Powell is your modern day rim running center that can both attack the rim with athletic dives and occasionally step out and hit a three. Everything just fits with this lineup, you have to tip your cap to the Mavericks staff for piecing this unit together.
The more and more continuity this unit gets together, the better they get. The Mavericks will have some interesting decisions to make this off-season with Barea and Harris both as unrestricted free agents, Kleber and Finney-Smith as restricted free agents, and Powell will have his own player option for $10.2 million. But we’ll worry about that when free agency arrives, for now, this bench unit is a force.
Containing Nikola Vucevic
One of the biggest surprises of the 2018-2019 NBA season is the play of Nikola Vucevic. The 28-year-old big man is having a career year, averaging 21.0 points on 55.1 percent shooting, 11.3 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in 30.9 minutes per game. He is surely making his case for his first career All-Star appearance in the Eastern Conference.
Vucevic is finally putting everything together, even stepping back and shooting 3’s. He has hit 40.3 percent of his threes on 79 attempts. He shot over 200 3-pointers last year, the prior six seasons, Vucevic launched just 101 3’s. With his somewhat newfound ability to stretch the floor, Vucevic will be a tough cover for DeAndre Jordan. The Mavericks typically do not like to have Jordan out around the perimeter on defense. The Mavericks will need to make the Magic pay on the other side of the floor, and try to draw Vucevic into foul trouble. He averages just 2.1 fouls per game, so that will be no easy task. Don’t be surprised if the Mavericks opt to throw Dwight Powell or even Maxi Kleber at Vucevic for longer stretches tonight.
Vucevic did suffer a mild ankle sprain in the Magic’s loss to the Pacers on Friday. Vucevic did participate in Sunday’s practice and is good-to-go for tonight’s game against the Mavericks, per the Athletic.
Orlando is coming off a 112-90 loss in Orlando on Friday. The Mavs are 11-2 at home and enter the game as five-point favorite to the Magic. Dennis Smith Jr. & Dirk Nowitzki are both listed as out with injuries. Catch the game on FSSW at 7:30pm.
Before the Mavs square off against the Magic tonight, Panini America will be offering more than 10,000 special sets of Dirk Nowitzki trading cards to fans as they enter the arena.
This unique six-card legacy set will feature some of the most memorable moments of Dirk’s career, including:
- Winning the MVP in 2006-07
- Reaching 31,000 career points
- Averaging 26 points and 9.7 rebounds against the Heat in the 2011 Finals
- Joining the 50,000 minute club
- Playing the most games in one season by a player in their 20th season or later
- Winning the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award in 2017
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