If it wasn’t clear by this point, it’s obvious that we’ve passed the point of the season where some fans might be justified in rooting for losses over wins. The bright hope for playoff contention from the early part of the season is a distant memory, replaced by a familiar feeling of dread, or perhaps resignation. Against another Bad Team on Tuesday in the Dallas Mavericks, all these themes were exemplified, as the Orlando Magic were trounced 114-99. Much of the damage was done in the second half, which Orlando lost 51-71 after a respectable first half on the defensive end.
Aaron Gordon led the Magic with 19 points and 8 rebounds, albeit without starting in the game thanks to a violation of team rules. Dirk Nowitzski tied a season high with 20, and Dennis Smith Jr. added 20 as well.
The first half was an up-and-down affair, with the Magic racing out in front with a 9-0 run before stalling hard and letting the Mavericks set the pace. Mario Hezonja appeared to be on the way to a solid night, hitting 3 of 4 shots in the first quarter for 7 points, but he would prove to be overmatched on both ends of the court throughout most of the game, including the crucial fourth quarter.
Eventually, the Magic turned it around with some strong bench play, particularly in the second quarter. While the offense was pretty good (led by 8 points from Marreese Speights in the frame), it was the defense that stepped up to contain Dallas to just 19 points. The Mavericks shot just 30% in the second, which allowed the Magic to take a 48-43 lead at halftime.
That was the last we’d see of the Magic’s defense, and the last time they’d hold a lead. Dallas wasted little time retaking control of the game. It’s probably a bad sign when your team gets beat by The Corpse of Dirk Nowitzski and a rookie point guard, but that’s exactly what went down in the second half, as they each added 15 points.
For a time, the Magic hung around thanks to some athletic plays from Aaron Gordon, including a particularly impressive possession when he tipped up an offensive rebound several times before finally collecting it and dunking it for the and-1, but Dallas overwhelmed the Magic in the last several minutes.
With a challenging January ahead of them, the Magic’s losing ways seem destined to continue.