Hoping to extend that dominance over the Magic, the struggling Mavericks on Friday night look to record their first win this season at American Airlines Center.
One of the league’s elite teams for nearly a decade, the Mavericks (2-6) are off to their worst eight-game start since opening 1-7 in 1998-99.
The Mavericks split their first four games before losing four straight, their longest skid since starting 0-4 in 2006-07. Dallas hasn’t dropped five in a row since a six-game slide from Feb. 29-March 9, 2000.
Having lost all three of its home games, playing on the road might have been the best thing for the Mavericks.
It looked like they were on their way to a win on Thursday at Chicago, bolting to a 24-5 lead less than six minutes in. The Bulls, however, recovered for a one-point halftime lead and pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 98-91 victory.
“It’s disappointing. We desperately need a win,” Mavs first-year coach Rick Carlisle said. “I’m just surprised at our lack of fight. I don’t know how else to put it.”
Carlisle has several areas to address with his struggling team, one being its poor play in the final quarter. The Mavericks are averaging only 21.3 fourth-quarter points in their six losses.
A lack of defensive intensity is also an issue as Dallas ranks near the bottom of the league in points allowed (99.4).
“We don’t play defense,” guard Jason Kidd said. “That’s been our problem. First six minutes we were playing defense and found ourselves up and that was it. We have as many offensive weapons (as anyone) in the league, but we got to find some guys who want to play defense.”
Beating the Magic (5-3) at home hasn’t been a problem for Dallas, which has won 10 straight meetings there since a 100-90 loss on Dec. 11, 1997. Nowitzki has averaged 29.5 points and 10.2 rebounds in his last six overall games against Orlando.
After losing their first two games while averaging 84.5 points, the Magic (5-3) have more resembled the 52-win team they were last season, winning five of six while putting up 104.8 per contest.
Struggling Oklahoma City was no match for Dwight Howard and the Magic on Wednesday. The Orlando star recorded his first career triple-double with 30 points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocks in an easy 109-92 victory.
“I wish he would have had one more rebound. It would have looked really even on the stat sheet - 30, 20 and 10,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “You can’t dominate a game much more than that.”
Howard, who led the NBA last season with 69 double-doubles, currently leads the league with averages of 15.0 rebounds and 4.4 blocks, which would both be career highs for the star center.
“I’m going to try to do this again,” said Howard, who set a goal of leading the NBA in those categories this season. “It felt good, trying to block every shot. And I know Coach is very happy.”
This will be second stop on a three-game road trip for Orlando, which has split two away contests this season after going 27-14 on the road in 2007-08.