The Orlando Magic continue their homestand against a red-hot Dallas Mavericks team that is out to a strong start this early season.
Orlando Magic (4-2) vs. Dallas Mavericks (5-1)
Time/TV: 7 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
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Line: Magic by 5/Magic Money Line: -215/Over-Under: 222 on FanDuel
Tickets: $37-$443 on StubHub
Season Series: Tonight in Orlando; Jan. 29 at Dallas
Our Prediction Record: 5-1/5-1 ATS
The Orlando Magic are flying a bit high after their win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The return home worked wonders for them and seemed to revitalize an offense that struggled through much of their West coast road trip. There are at least two home games now to show the Magic can find their footing and hide their weaknesses at home.
All the sample sizes are too small to say anything is certain. But the Magic should be a team full of confidence. Especially on defense.
This is a big challenge for Orlando though. This entire week will be with some top offenses in the early season coming up on the schedule. The Dallas Mavericks have had a fantastic offensive start with Luka Doncic playing at a superstar level and their shooters — specifically free agent signee Grant Williams — shooting at an extremely good level.
Doncic is the kind of player who beats good defenses. As is Kyrie Irving. But the Magic’s ability to load up against him and likely defend him one-on-one could be the key. Orlando has the tools to be the kind of team that can slow down this offensive juggernaut.
Injuries have hit both teams too. Gary Harris (right groin strain) and Markelle Fultz (left knee swelling) have been ruled OUT. Luka Doncic (right quad soreness) and Kyrie Irving (left foot sprain) are both QUESTIONABLE after playing last night in Dallas against the Charlotte Hornets.
3 Keys To Watch
The Battle for Pace
It is one of the traditions around the league early in the season. Every coach will say they need to play with more pace or their team is going to play faster. Everyone wants to get out in transition more. That is how this goes.
Coaches often do not mean pace in terms of possessions per 48 minutes when they talk about pace. They are talking about the speed at which they run their own offense. It is not as important how many possessions they get but how they run and make the most of those possessions.
Still, the early season trend is the Magic are a low-possession team. They are 21st in the league at 99.9 possessions per 48 minutes. Orlando is averaging just 11.7 fast-break points per game. This is not a team that is getting out in transition a lot. The Magic are a team that tries to value its possession.
The Mavericks are not a great team in transition either despite being 11th in possessions per 48 minutes. Dallas scores only 12.2 fast-break points per game. Orlando gives up only 9.8 fast-break points per game, second in the league. The Mavericks just try to get up a lot of shots quickly. And so the Magic are going to have to try to slow the game down a ton and keep hte game at their pace.
Guarding the 3-Point Line
To that point then, the ability to defend the 3-point line is going to be the big thing in the Orlando Magic’s game against the Dallas Mavericks. Even if that is a thing that bends more toward shooting luck than anything else. Such as it is.
The Dallas Mavericks are first in the league shooting 43.7 3-point attempts per game and second in the league at 39.7 percent from deep (the LA Clippers are first and did a number on the Orlando Magic last week). This is a Magic defense that really has not faced the top offenses. And so this is a big test for the defense.
Orlando overall to this point has been better defending the 3-point line. Opponents are taking only 31.2 attempts per game (fourth in the league) and shooting 33.7 percent from deep (11th in the league). This is a long way from the Magic giving up the second-most 3-pointers per game last season.
This will be the terms under which the game will be determined tonight.
The Orlando Magic are not a good offensive team to the eye. They do not look or figure to be a consistent offensive group. Even with Paolo Banchero coming alive in the last two games, the Magic are not exactly a picture of offensive consistency.
It is still young this year. There is not a lot of stickiness with stats this year. As Jamahl Mosley put it before Saturday’s game, you are looking more for trends at this point of the season and to not disregard outliers but figure out what is real and what is not real.
So here is an interesting trend: The Magic are 16th in the league in offensive rating so far this year at 109.8 points per 100 possessions. But at the Amway Center — IN TWO GAMES — the Magic are scoring 122.3 points per 100 possessions. Saturday’s game was the best offensive game of the year. And Orlando has not scored more than 110 points per 100 possessions in any of their games on the road.
Does that mean Orlando has established the Amway Center as their home? Are they really a better home team and completely different offensively away from home? That is something we are all still figuring out.
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.