The Orlando Magic will honor their past while trying to improve their present tonight when they host the Dallas Mavericks at Amway Arena. The Magic will recognize legendary point guard Darrell Armstrong, now a Dallas assistant, this evening and will nod to his era by wearing their throwback uniforms. But the bigger story will be how Orlando contends with Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood, two players who've performed quite well against Orlando this season, whom the Mavs acquired recently.
|2009/2010 NBA Season|
|February 19th, 2010|
|Sun Sports / ESPN|
|Jason Kidd||PG||Jameer Nelson|
|Caron Butler||SG||Vince Carter|
|Shawn Marion||SF||Matt Barnes|
|Dirk Nowitzki||PF||Rashard Lewis|
|Brendan Haywood||C||Dwight Howard|
Butler caught fire against the Magic two weeks ago tonight, scoring a season-high 31 points on 22 shots, and sinking 5 of his 9 long two-pointers. Fittingly, he made the winning basket from the same distance. In this way, he fits right in with Dallas, which launches 21.4 long two-pointers per game and converts them at a league-leading 43.1% clip. Meanwhile, Haywood is among the few centers in the league who legitimately frustrates Orlando's Dwight Howard defensively. He can score against him, sure, but few things come easily.
But maybe it's silly to spend so much time discussing two guys who might not be among the top 5 players in the game. Future hall-of-famer Dirk Nowitzki's stats have taken a slight dive since a freak collision with Houston's Carl Landry which resulted in some of Landry's teeth finding themselves in Nowitzki's elbow, but he's still capable of taking a game over with his efficient scoring. Jason Kidd is still sneakily effective. Jason Terry can score in bunches, while Jose Juan Barea would fit right in next to Shannon Brown and Will Bynum on the list of small, speedy, unheralded point guards who have embarrassed the Magic this season. Dallas is a dangerous team.
Which is why I'm struggling to figure out how its stats are so mediocre. 12th in offense, 15th in defense, 15th in point differential--the Mavs have outplayed their point differential by three wins!--something's just not right there. But I do take this team quite seriously. Its aversion to fouling means Howard, Vince Carter, and company will have to work extra hard for trips to the charity stripe, and its ability to take care of the ball will limit the Magic's transition opportunities.