Mavericks 118, Magic 88
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)—The Dallas Mavericks wanted to end a bad road trip on a good note, but they still felt empty after a 30-point victory over a starless, struggling team.
“It’s nice to win, but I wouldn’t get too excited about this one,” Mavericks coach Don Nelson said.
Dallas enjoyed a solid opener to its five-game East Coast swing, beating the Atlantic-leading New Jersey Nets. But the Mavericks lost at Philadelphia and Indiana, then dropped a heartbreaker in overtime in Miami.
“It’s been a disaster,” said Nowitzki, who led six Mavericks in double figures. “We lost a lot of games that we would usually win.”
Luckily for the Mavs, the trip ended against a terrible defensive squad missing the NBA’s leading scorer. It was a setup for a blowout, and Dallas seized the opportunity.
The Mavericks shot 57 percent, their best since Nov. 11, and their 34 assists were their most in more than two months. Meanwhile, Orlando shot 35 percent and had nine shots blocked.
“At this point, we’re looking for anything positive, to be honest,” Nelson said. “We really struggled lately, so to have a good defensive and good offensive effort on the same night makes it nice.”
“We have a habit of playing down to the level of our competition,” Nash said. “This was by no means a foregone conclusion.”
“They are rookies who can play. They have tremendous talent,” said Antoine Walker, who had 10 points and nine rebounds. “I think the whole rookie class is good, from Carmelo (Anthony) and LeBron (James) on down.”
Dallas took control midway through the second quarter by scoring 26 points in eight minutes. That turned a six-point game into a 62-40 lead 1 1/2 minutes before halftime. Sixteen points came on layups, as the Mavericks made 12 of 15 shots.
Orlando’s season, the most disappointing in the franchise’s 15-year history, may be close to bottoming out. The Magic need two wins in their last seven games to avoid their worst record since going 18-64 in their inaugural season.
“We have to play each game and come out with a commitment to win it,” Orlando coach Johnny Davis said. “No one’s going to feel sorry for us.”
Added rookie guard Keith Bogans: “We’re still playing, we’re not going to give up—didn’t look that way today, though.”
The Magic have stopped playing defense lately, surrendering 74 point-blank shots in their last three games. The Mavericks had 26 layups and dunks for a season high-tying 64 points in the paint. Dallas also shot 67 percent (28-for-42) over the first two quarters, Orlando’s season worst for a half.
“In the first quarter we competed, but beyond that I thought the game got away from us,” Davis said “We never responded to try to make a game of it, but it’s difficult when you’re not scoring and they’re laying the ball up.”
McGrady participated in pregame warmups, diamond studs still in his earlobes, but his sore left knee sidelined him for a second straight game.
“It’s day to day, so I assume he went out to see how it felt,” Davis said. “But, obviously, it didn’t feel healthy enough or right enough.”
McGrady said he will play Wednesday against Chicago. He’s missed four of the past five games, because of his injury and a death in the family.
Orlando’s Drew Gooden had 20 points and 10 rebounds for his 16th double-double of the year, but just his third since Jan. 2.
Orlando guard Reece Gaines hurt his right hip midway through the second quarter and didn’t return. The little-used rookie scored two points in sixminutes. … Dallas snapped a five-game losing streak in Orlando.