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Orlando Magic 117, Dallas Mavericks 107

After yet another slow start, the Orlando Magic regrouped after halftime to outgun the Dallas Mavericks, outscoring Dallas, 66-50, after intermission to take home a 117-107 victory, tying its franchise best with nine straight. Hedo Turkoglu led the charge for the visitors, tallying 13 points, a career-high 17 assists, 5 steals, and a blocked shot; of those, 10 points, 5 assists, 2 steals, and the block came in the fourth period, in which Orlando took command of the game for good. It's fair to say Mister Fourth Quarter came back, at least for this evening.

But Turkoglu had help. Dwight Howard battled back from first-half foul trouble to lead the team with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Jason Richardson showed off his versatility as a scorer by pouring in 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Jameer Nelson drained three three-pointers in the third quarter to ignite Orlando's comeback. Gilbert Arenas scored 14 points off the bench and continued his encouraging progress in running the pick-and-roll. The team truly earned this victory.

If we are to credit the Magic from withstanding a 57-point first half from Dallas, which included a 17-point effort from DeShawn Stevenson, he of the jumper with corkscrewing backspin, we should also recognize the role they played in trailing by as much as 20 points in the first place. Poor pick-and-roll defense gave Mavericks ballhandlers Jason Kidd and Jason Terry options in initiating the offense, Turkoglu played far too off Stevenson time and again, and thus everything came easily. And with fouls saddling Howard, the Magic had no deterrent at the rim, further encouraging Dallas' wings to drive to the basket.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Magic 93 126.4 60.5% 23.5 26.3 15.1
Mavericks 94 113.7 61.8% 17.1 17.6 18.1
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

It's difficult to know what to make, precisely, of this Magic win. One point of view holds the Magic won't win many games conceding the sorts of numbers you see in the above table. The other side is, of course, they won't lose many games when they play this well offensively. Both statements are true, but which do you adopt in evaluating this game?

The defense for most of the game did not impress. Howard made solid plays indiviually--there are few centers who could close out on Jose Barea quickly and effectively enough to force a travel, as Howard did in the fourth quarter--but the Mavericks minimized his shot-blocking skill by lofting floater after floater over him, rather than fruitlessly going all the way to the rim with him in the game. Dallas moved the ball expertly and kept the Magic guessing in this way and I suppose you feel better knowing the Mavericks scored just 40 of their 107 points in the paint. But the Magic let the Mavericks get into a groove on their jumpers, which contributed to their hotter-than-Hell start.

But the Magic's offense... I'm not sure I can say enough about it. The high screen-and-roll with the 6-foot-10 Turkoglu handling; Howard screening and drawing defenders with him on the roll; and some combination of Ryan Anderson, Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, and Jason Richardson spread around the arc to await a kickout for three, is simply too lethal for a lot of teams to handle.

Dallas, which had yet to give up more than 103 points in a single game all season, did not take anything away in this set, which is why Orlando kept running it. Turkoglu could stop to launch an 18-footer from the top, he could drive to the basket for a layup, he could drive to the basket for a lob to Howard, he could stop on his way to the basket to throw a lob, and he has the shooters at his disposal if he needs them. The best way to defend it might just be to concede the pull-up jumper to Turkoglu. Dallas didn't even do that properly, fouling him twice on jumpers for three-point plays.

Appropriately enough, the first of those miscues led to Orlando's game-changing run. Following Turkoglu's initial three-point-play conversion, the Magic got treys from Anderson and Arenas, a pull-up jumper from Turkoglu, a three-pointer from Redick, a fastbreak layup from Arenas, and a lob-dunk from Howard. Turkoglu accounted for all the points during that run via a score or assist. After that final dunk, Orlando owned a 100-87 lead and the Mavericks had completely lost their composure. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle literally went out of his way to draw an ejection, charging to midcourt with the ball in play to complain about the officials not calling Dallas for a foul it was trying to give on Howard. Moments later, Tyson Chandler earned a technical after picking up his sixth personal foul, an iffy bump of Arenas on a fast break.

In some ways, the Magic reminded me of the 2009 NBA Finalist team tonight with their solid offensive execution from the second period on, as they turned the ball over just 7 times during that span, and managed to score from just about everywhere on the court. The defense, clearly, is not up to par with that team yet.

In his 11th game since re-joining the club, Turkoglu has broken two career-best marks, with 5 steals in Monday's victory and his 17 assists tonight, which coincidentally also included 5 steals. Magic broadcaster David Steele mentioned that fact tonight and wondered how happy Turkoglu is to be back with Orlando. It's fair to say both sides are benefitting from the reunion, at least for the moment.