The Dallas Mavericks look to end their final road swing before the NBA All-Star break with a win on Monday when they face the slumping Orlando Magic.
Dallas opened its three-game, Eastern Conference trip Feb. 25 with a 111-97 loss at Philadelphia but rebounded on Saturday to snap the Brooklyn Nets’ eight-game winning streak in a 115-98 rout.
Kristaps Porzingis scored 18 points and grabbed four rebounds in his return to the lineup from a three-game absence, the result of lower-back tightness. Perhaps more crucial to the Mavericks’ win were Porzingis’ three blocked shots.
“His rim protection and defense was the best that it’s been all year,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said in his postgame press conference. “It just shows the amount of work that he’s been putting in over the last 10 or 11 days.”
Porzingis’ performance came amid rumors of trade talk involving the 7-foot-3 post player.
“I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, and I shouldn’t be too worried about it,” Porzingis said at team media availability on Friday. “It can only distract me at the end of the day.”
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told the Dallas Morning News that rumors of a Porzingis trade before the March 25 deadline are inaccurate.
In the meantime, Dallas aims to build on its recent run of three wins in its last four games at sputtering and injury-riddled Orlando.
The Magic won three straight games and four of five before hitting their current three-game skid. Orlando dropped a 124-109 decision to Utah on Saturday, playing without Cole Anthony (rib), James Ennis (calf) and Aaron Gordon (ankle).
The absences of Anthony, Ennis and Gordon compounded the already tenuous roster situation the Magic have endured with Jonathan Isaac out due to a knee injury sustained at the Orlando-area bubble in the summer.
Orlando also lost Markelle Fultz to a torn ACL in January.
Attrition from its limited rotation may have contributed to Orlando’s fourth-quarter woes in its last two games. The Magic were outscored by 17 points in the final period of a Feb. 25 loss at Brooklyn and surrendered 37 points in Saturday’s loss to Utah.
“There are games where you are kind of flat, energy wise,” Evan Fournier said in his postgame press conference. “But we fight hard. The Jazz are a really good team and like I said, we were in the game. (The) beginning of the fourth quarter and the rebounding game really killed us.”
Utah outrebounded Orlando, 52-37. The Magic held the Jazz to 10 offensive rebounds, in line with Orlando’s season-long per-game yield of nine — one of the best averages in the NBA.
Orlando ranks near the bottom of the league in defensive and total rebounds surrendered per game, however, a byproduct of the Magic’s league-worst 43 percent field-goal shooting.
Of Orlando’s top five scorers, none are shooting 50 percent from the floor. Nikola Vucevic leads the way at 48.3 percent on his 24.4-point per game average.
Dallas is shooting 46.5 percent from the floor as a team, and 54.8 percent from inside the 3-point arc. Luka Doncic — averaging close to a triple-double with team highs of 28.5 points, 9.0 assists and 8.4 rebounds per game — is shooting 54.3 percent on 2-point field goals and a career-best 35.1 percent from 3-point range.
–Field Level Media