The Magic created a rather large hole for themselves early in Friday night’s contest. They were resilient enough to climb all the way back from the deficit, but ultimately weren’t able to pull away in their first post-All-Star break home contest, dropping the game 122-106 to the Dallas Mavericks.
“Obviously, we struggled early (on both ends of the floor),” Orlando head coach Steve Clifford said during his post-game conference. “I thought the second quarter and third (quarter) we were much better, we did some good things. And then, in both halves, when we broke the lineup - we really struggled.”
Dallas franchise cornerstone Luka Doncic scored 33 points (10-21 FGA’s, 9-12 FTA’s), grabbed 10 rebounds, and dished out 8 assists. Kristaps Porzingis (8-16 FGA’s, 4-9 3PTA’s) added 24 points and 10 rebounds, and Maxi Kleber scored a career-high 26 points (10-13 FGA’s) off the bench.
The contrast between the two clubs was more than apparent early in the game. Dallas, who leads the NBA in offensive efficiency, buried six of their first nine three-point attempts. Doncic knocked down three first quarter three-point fields goals (all off the dribble), and Kristaps Porzingis added two more from the top of the key off pick-and-pop opportunities.
At the other end, the Magic missed their first nine three-point field goals. It wasn’t until just over one minute remaining in the firs quarter before Orlando connected on a three-point field goal. They weren’t much better inside the arc either, shooting 7 for 25 overall from the floor in the first quarter (25 percent from the field).
The Magic organization recognized longtime fan-favorite Darrell Armstrong (502 games played in Orlando) in-between the first and second quarters. Armstrong, who is an assistant coach for the Dallas Mavericks, was inducted into the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame earlier Friday afternoon.
Orlando didn’t find any luck shooting the basketball from outside in the second quarter either. Evan Fournier found his range with a couple three-point field goals as the second quarter came to a close, but even with those makes from distance, Orlando still shot a lowly 3 for 22 from three (13.6% on 3PTA’s) in the first half.
Luckily, point guard Markelle Fultz took it upon himself to get things going in the second quarter, scoring ten points in the period. Fultz found success off the dribble knocking down mid-range jumpers (when Dallas defenders went under screens), getting in the lane and two the rim, and even converting off a beautiful spin move from the left baseline.
The Magic had no answer defensively for Doncic in the first half. The All-Star started scored 24 points in 17 first half minutes.
The tables completely turned coming out of halftime as Orlando opened the third quarter on a 17-4 run. A driving layup from Fournier gave the Magic their first lead of the game with 6:48 remaining in the third.
Orlando’s defensive attention was much better coming out of the locker room, which led to some easier offensive opportunities than the team found in the first half.
Fournier went crazy in the third quarter, scoring 18 points in the period. Orlando’s starting shooting guard made three three-point field goals in the quarter.
A significant moment in the game came with just over three minutes remaining in the third quarter when Fultz limped to Orlando’s bench with an apparent cramp in his left calf. He did not return to the game.
Dallas got a huge lift off their bench from Kleber, who knocked-down two three-point field goals within the first couple of minutes in the fourth quarter. The second forced Clifford to call timeout with his team once again behind by double-digits. The third-year big man from Germany buried a third three in the period from the right-corner a few possessions later.
With the lead they built early in the fourth quarter, Dallas was able to coast the rest of the way to a relatively stress-free win.
Orlando finished the game a frigid 9 for 43 from beyond the arc (20.9%), compared to Dallas, who shot 15 for 38 from three-point range (39.5%). Long-range shooting proved to be the difference in the game.
“You’ve got to make those shots,” Clifford added after the game. “We’re shooting wide-open shots, you’ve got to make them. You can’t turn (those) down. In this league, it’s hard enough to get an open shot - you certainly don’t turn it down to...what’s a better shot than a wide-open rhythm shot?
Fournier led the Magic with 28 points (5-12 3PTA’s). Nikola Vucevic scored an inefficient 27 points (12 for 27 from the field) and grabbed 12 rebounds.
After missing Orlando’s last 14 games, D.J. Augustin returned to the court Friday. The veteran point guard played 16 minutes and did not score a point in the game.
Newly acquired swing-man James Ennis made somewhat of a surprising appearance in Orlando’s starting lineup Friday night. He finished with 2 points (1-6 FGA’s) in 21 minutes.
The Magic are back in action Monday night in Brooklyn as they take on a Nets team that is two games ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings.