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Tonight's Game: Dallas Mavericks at Orlando Magic

2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
Dallas Mavericks alternate logo
Orlando Magic 20th anniversary logo
27-19 36-10
February 2nd, 2009
Amway Arena
7:00 PM
FSN Florida HD
Probable starters:
Jason Kidd PG Jameer Nelson
Antoine Wright SG Courtney Lee
Josh Howard SF Hedo Turkoglu
Dirk Nowitzki PF Rashard Lewis
Erick Dampier C Dwight Howard
Previous Meetings:
November 14th: Magic 102, Mavericks 100

The Dallas Mavericks come into tonight's game against the Orlando Magic by way of Miami, where they defeated the Miami Heat, 111-96, on Friday night. The Mavericks now stand at 7th place in the West at 27-19--the same record would make them a distant 4th in the East--which would indicate that things are going well for them.

Not quite. The season has been up and down. As their record indicates, it's been up so far, but the Mavericks are not serious championship contenders, which is obviously where they want to be. First, they need to find some consistency, though. Mike Fisher illustrates that by looking at the scores of Dallas' last five games:

Dallas lost by 34, won by 21, lost by 24, won by 24 and won by 15. "Up-and-down" indeed.

So the Mavericks, it would appear, are due for a loss. The Magic beat them once already this year, but that was a game they truly stole; I still have no idea how they won that game. Hopefully, Rashard Lewis can limit Dirk Nowitzki's trips to the foul line, and Courtney Lee can manage to stay in front of Jason Terry, Dallas' dynamite reserve shooting guard. On offense, Jameer Nelson will be able to get whatever he wants against Jason Kidd, so I expect a big outing from him. If Dwight Howard can get it going against Erick Dampier, one of the league's strongest defensive centers, Orlando should win its 37th game of the season.

Tip's at 7. Go Magic.

UPDATE: I neglected to mention that Darrell Armstrong will make his first visit to Amway Arena as an assistant coach tonight; he joined the Mavericks' coaching staff last week. Armstrong ranks in the top ten in several of the Magic's statistical categories, including games (third), minutes (second) and points (seventh). He's also one of the best-loved players in franchise history. I suspect the Magic may honor him at halftime tonight--after all, it is their 20th anniversary season--or at least show him on the JumboTron MagicVision so he can receive an ovation.

Rob Mahoney's preview at The Two Man Game suggests the Magic are like the San Antonio Spurs, only they have "the super-scorer/role player that may have kept the Spurs from exploding into a ten year dynasty" in Rashard Lewis. If Dwight Howard develops a low-post game, the Magic could become "an infinitely more exciting and smiley" version of the Spurs.