There’s not always of hidden value to glean from the type of blowout that took place at the AAC on Saturday night. Whether it’s a win, or a loss, games like this are pretty straight forward in what they show about each team. For the Dallas Mavericks, it shows just how much they have improved since their dreadful start to the season. For the Magic, the 112-80 blowout loss solidifies just far this team has fallen into the NBA’s cellar.
The Magic, who have now lost 16 of their last 20 games, are at a place that many MFFL’s envisioned their team being in before the new year. Their struggles, which have never been more evident than on Saturday, are just a microcosm of where the franchise actually is as a whole.
Disorganized, dysfunctional, direction-less.
Here, the Magic had just three guys in double-figures, shot 39 percent from the floor (13 percent from three), turned the ball over 15 times, and were out-rebounded 51-40 by the worst rebounding team in the entire NBA, statistically speaking.
The Mavs on the other hand, have managed to turn around what was a disastrous first two-and-a-half months of the season, and salvage it into a respectable year. They have won 11 of their last 16, including wins over Utah, San Antonio, Cleveland, and a hot Philadelphia team.
“We got dealt a messed up hand to start the season,” said Wes Matthews. “What it says about us is we're tough and we're not going to go anywhere."
What has changed? For starters, Dirk is healthy. But also, Seth Curry has settled into his role in the starting rotation, and provided the Mavs with a much needed shot in the arm offensively that they lacked at the beginning of the year.
With the emergence of Seth, and the returning health of Dirk, guys like Wes Matthews and Harrison Barnes have more space to operate, and less pressure to do it all on the offensive end. That, combined with some improvements on the defensive end, have helped Dallas turn themselves into a respectable team. (And no, as DB.com reports exclusively, that Seth to the Warriors trade rumor ain't real.)
Carlisle's summation of the difference? “That we play better when Dirk is healthy and feeling good, which is something I think we knew about 18 and half years ago.”
Now, with the win over Orlando, Dallas has put itself in legitimate striking distance (just two games as we write this) of Denver for the eighth seed in the West, and the right to play Kevin Durant and the Golden State super-team in the first round of the playoffs.
I suppose I could give you the statistical analysis of Saturday’s game, but honestly, it doesn’t matter. This win had nothing to do with offensive rebounds, or plus/minus. It was about Rick Carlisle and Co. continuing the process.
Said Justin Anderson: “Coach finds a way to get us going. We executed, played at a great pace, and locked in defensively. We did everything that we needed to do and I’m glad that we came out with a win.”
A lot of Mavs fans won’t like it … and too be honest, I can understand why. There is no denying that a high lottery pick is an extremely tempting thing to chase, and getting a guy like Lonzo Ball or Markelle Fultz is a massive opportunity. (ee our scouting reports on them here.) But this collection of guys is too proud and too competitive to accept that kind of fate.
Instead, whether the Dallas faithful likes it or not, the people on the floor are going to chase that playoff spot.
Are they going to catch Denver, Portland, or whoever else ends up in front of them by the end of the regular season? I don’t know. What I do know is that this team is going to compete as hard as they did on Saturday night, every night for the next two months.
And that’s OK.
That’s what these guys get paid to do, and you have to respect it.
The Mavs will attempt to keep the train rolling on Monday night when MVP candidate Isaiah Thomas and the Boston Celtics come into town as winners of nine of their last 10, and 15 of their last 20. Thomas, is currently the second-leading scorer in the NBA at just under 30 points per game, and is having one of the most incredible individual seasons in recent memory.
"We’re going to keep fighting,'' Wes said. "That’s one thing about us, we’re going to keep throwing punches and we’re going to keep fighting. We believe.”