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Jonathan Isaac returns to Magic starting lineup in loss at Dallas

Facing the Mavericks in the second game of a back-to-back in a different city, the Magic were without point guard Markelle Fultz on Monday night.

Fultz (left knee injury maintenance) has played in nine games since he returned to the court after missing 27 contests in a row due to left knee tendinitis.

It’s part of Orlando‘s plan to not have Fultz available on both nights of a back-to-back as he continues to ramp up his minutes since making his way back.

Monday’s 131-129 loss marked the third time he’s missed the second game of a back-to-back since he returned Jan. 7 against Atlanta.

The Magic fell to 24-23.

Dallas (26-21) was led by Luka Doncic (45 points) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (36 points).

He previously sat out Jan. 13 at Oklahoma City the night after Orlando fell short at Miami and he wasn’t available Jan. 22 against Cleveland following the Magic’s 18-point win.

While Jalen Suggs filled in for Fultz in Orlando’s starting lineup against the Mavericks, coach Jamahl Mosley made another significant change to his first group on the floor at American Airlines Center.

Magic forward Jonathan Isaac started alongside Suggs, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero (team-high 36 points) and Wendell Carter Jr., marking the first time Isaac was in Orlando’s starting five since Jan. 1, 2020, at Washington.

It serves as a major step in the right direction for Isaac, who played in just 11 games last season after 2-plus years off the court due to leg injuries.

It’s not just that Isaac (2 points in 8 minutes) was able to start against Dallas that’s remarkable but it’s the fact that he was available to play in the first place on the second night of a back-to-back.

Isaac has already missed 18 games this season because of various injuries, including seven due to a right hamstring strain, but he hadn’t played in both games of a back-to-back since Dec. 20-21.

It also marked the fourth time this season he’s played in both games of a back-to-back. All of that is evidence of the hard work he and the Magic have put into his rehab process.

Jonathan Isaac serves as X-factor for Magic, who defeat Suns

Although Fultz has been unavailable thus far in both games of a back-to-back, he’s continued to progress on the court while serving as a critical piece to Orlando’s starting five and closing group at times.

After coming off the bench for six games, Fultz has started the last three games he’s been able to play. In his nine contests since his return, he’s averaged 7.3 points, 3.4 assists and 2.7 rebounds.

In 14 games overall this season, he’s led (or tied) the team in assists three times, scored in double figures eight times and recorded at least one steal nine times and two-or-more steals five times.

Email Jason Beede at jbeede@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on X, known as Twitter, at @therealBeede.