Orlando Magic Grades: Dallas Mavericks 130, Orlando Magic 124

Luka Doncic won the duel of the stars as the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
Luka Doncic won the duel of the stars as the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images) /

124. 38. Final. 130. 79

By the time a team has to stop Luka Doncic it is far too late.

He is the kind of superstar who is able to take and make big shots — just ask the Boston Celtics last week. At a certain point, there is nothing anyone can do. So needing to get a stop and relying on him to make a mistake or leave the door open is just asking for trouble.

That was the situation the Orlando Magic found themselves in as they scrambled to erase a late double-digit deficit. The Dallas Mavericks would not need a whole lot to hold off even this suddenly hot Orlando Magic team.

So it was the individual brilliance of Doncic that carried the team home.

With a little more than a minute remaining, Luka Doncic crossed over Michael Carter-Williams, feigning the drive. Michael Carter-Williams sunk into the paint and gave Luka Doncic the space for the step-back 3-pointers. The Mavericks were up 11.

Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross did their best to make the game interesting, making the Mavericks sweat a bit in that final minute. But it was too little too late. The Magic fell to the Mavericks 130-124 at Amway Center on Monday.

The Orlando Magic got another star performance from Nikola Vucevic to lift their offense. But Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks proved to be too much.

Orlando will point to a porous defense that gave up drives to the rim in fear of giving up 3-pointers and easy baskets and ball movement. The Magic just got consistently over-extended. Dallas recorded 29 assists on 47 field goals.

The Magic were game offensively with one of their best shooting performances in a while. They hit on 49.5-percent of their shots and 20 of 41 3-point attempts. But they had moments, especially when Nikola Vucevic was out of the game, where the offense just could not keep pace.

In a game where both teams were scoring with ease, those moments and minutes cost the team dearly, putting them behind the 8-ball and chasing the lead the entire game. that is a difficult place for the Magic to be.

Especially with time winding down and Doncic able to close the game with an exclamation point.

A-. . C. Orlando Magic. NIKOLA VUCEVIC

Nikola Vucevic’s stat line really does say it all at this point. He scored 29 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and dished out eight assists. He made 12 of 24 shots and five of his eight 3-pointers. What more is he supposed to do to help the team compete and eventually win? The Magic were +16 with Vucevic on the floor. As far as an individual game’s plus/minus can go, that says a lot. Orlando was simply non-functioning with Nikola Vucevic off the floor — 93.1 points per 100 possessions with backup center Khem Birch in (more on that later).

Maybe the only complaint would be asking for a bit more defensively. Nikola Vucevic was on the perimeter for most of the game tracking Kristaps Porzingis. And some of the team’s pick and roll coverage broke down as Vucevic dropped to guard the paint, losing contact with the Mavericks’ big man in the process. But he is doing everything else about as well as he could.

B. . G/F. Orlando Magic. EVAN FOURNIER

Often in this space, I will write that Evan Fournier‘s main role is to score and score efficiently. They need him to hit from the outside and space the floor. They need him to put up some points and give the Orlando Magic some offensive balance. So he did that in Monday’s game. He scored 26 points on 8-for-13 shooting, making five of his eight 3-pointers. That is the kind of lethal efficiency the Magic need. The only thing that slowed him down was a groin injury that limited him in the second half.

Still, the Magic needed more on this night. Evan Fournier struggled defensively on whoever was his matchup. He just was not keeping anyone in front of him consistently, giving up several blow-bys that set up the Mavericks’ killer passing game. So much of the Magic’s problems in this game came down to individual ball containment and pick-and-roll communication. It just was not there this game.


When Michael Carter-Williams has a game where he is shooting well and attacking the basket aggressively, the Orlando Magic have to find a way to win. These are the kind of rare performances that lift the Magic’s offense out of the dregs. Carter-Williams was running the team effectively and getting to the basket for the most part.

He finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists, making eight of his 13 shots for the game. His defense was solid, but not up to his usual intensity. Then again, it is really hard to stay in front of Luka Doncic consistently.

F. . C. Orlando Magic. KHEM BIRCH

Khem Birch’s value is usually beyond the box score. So his zero-point, two-rebound performance is not why he is getting such a low letter grade. It is not even that he played so poorly. It is all about context. Coach Steve Clifford said he was preparing to play Mohamed Bamba as the backup center for the next few games. That apparently stopped at two, with Clifford saying his reasoning for playing Birch was Birch’s better pick and roll defense.

It felt like a cop-out for Clifford to go back to a favored and more solid veteran rather than sit through the mistakes of a young player coming back from an extended absence and sporadic minutes and practice time. It did not help that Birch was not that effective in either case. He was getting lost a bit defensively and was not consistently in the right spots to help the team get stops.

This struggle on defense only highlighted his offensive shortcomings. In a game with so much scoring, Birch’s minutes were notable for their lack of offensive cohesion. Even with his improved offensive aggression, Birch is still a negative offensively. The Magic had a 93.1 offensive rating with Birch on the floor. Orlando needed someone who is at least an offensive threat. Say what you want about Bamba, he scores when he is in the game and defenses have to account for him a little.

B+. . 17-16. 9th West. DALLAS MAVERICKS

There is not much left to say about Luka Doncic. He was in complete control of this game and by the time he found his rhythm in the second half, he was toying with the Orlando Magic’s defense on his way to a near-triple-double of 33 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. He was absolutely brilliant and carried the Mavericks through long stretches.

But Dallas’ bench again won this game. Jalen Brunson torched Orlando’s second unit for 24 points. And Kristaps Porzingis came on strong in the second half to help keep the Magic at a distance. Dallas is certainly not thrilled with the team’s defense as Orlando got its offense going. But the Mavericks made enough stops and enough plays when they needed.

Next. What it will take for the Orlando Magic to make a move. dark

Orlando is now 13-22, falling to 14th in the Eastern Conference. The Orlando Magic wrap up the first half of the season Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks at Amway Center.