After facing the top two teams in the Eastern Conference over the weekend, the Dallas Mavericks hope for better luck against another division leader from the East.
The Mavericks try to avoid being swept by the elite of the East on Monday when they play the surging Orlando Magic, who look to win a season-high fifth straight.
Dallas (31-16), which already had lost at Boston—leader of the Atlantic— on Thursday, shot a season-low 30.3 percent and scored its fewest points of the season in a 90-67 loss to the Central Division-leading Detroit Pistons on Sunday. Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard had 15 points each, while reserve Brandon Bass was the only other Dallas player to score in double figures with 14.
Nowitzki scored 13 of his points in the first half in his lowest-scoring game since being limited to seven in a win over New Orleans on Dec. 14. The 7-foot All-Star, though, did have 10 rebounds for his fifth straight double-double.
“He was aggressive in the first half and just couldn’t get it going in the second half,” coach Avery Johnson said. “But it wasn’t just Dirk, everybody had a tough second half.”
Dallas, which averages 100.1 points, has been held to 90 or fewer in three of the last four games. Sunday’s loss dropped the Mavs to 11-12 on the road, and while they play their next two at home after this game, they quickly return to the road for six of their following seven.
The Mavericks beat the Magic 111-108 in Dallas on Dec. 17, as Nowitzki scored 11 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter.
Dallas has won three straight over the Magic, including a 111-95 victory at Orlando last season, but the Mavs have lost 12 of their last 15 played there.
Orlando (31-18), meanwhile, has won four straight and is coming off one of its best offensive games of the season in a 121-115 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday. The Southeast Division leaders scored a season high in points in regulation, and their 55.7 percent shooting was their third-best performance.
Six players scored in double figures, led by 24 points and 12 rebounds from Dwight Howard. Hedo Turkoglu added 23 points and eight assists, overcoming a headache and a 1-of-3 performance from the field in the first half.
“It seemed when we needed big shots down the stretch Hedo (Turkoglu) and Rashard (Lewis) hit some key buckets,” Howard said. “We really want to be greedy right now before the All Star break. We didn’t want to have a let down and wanted to put ourselves in a better position for the second half of the season.”
The Magic rank among the top 10 teams in the league at 103.8 points per game and shooting at 46.9 percent, but they’ve been even better lately, averaging 105.0 points on 50.6 percent shooting in winning seven of their last eight games.
With a win, Orlando would match its longest winning streak of the season set from Nov. 13-19.