3 things to watch out for when the Mavericks host the Magic

The Dallas Mavericks (23-19) complete a straight game Saturday night when they host the Orlando Magic (8-35), following their battle against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. The Magic, who beat the Charlotte Hornets last night, just snapped a 10-game losing streak. All the contrast in the Mavericks 112-85 battle opponent against Ja Morant & co. on national television – breaking their franchise record of 11 straight wins.

The Mavericks have been playing well lately, earning double-digit wins over the Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls and Memphis Grizzlies in January. Now they enter what should be a series of winnable games in a very tight window: starting January 12 (loss to the New York Knicks), the Mavericks will play six games in nine days.

Old familiar face, new young players

For many Mavericks fans over the summer, their pick for Rick Carlisle’s replacement as head coach was right in the Dallas locker room. Then-assistant Jamahl Mosley had the experience, as well as what seemed to be a stellar relationship with Luka Doncic, to take on side duties for the Mavericks. It quickly became clear that Mark Cuban and the front office had other ideas in mind, and Mosley soon found a position with the Magic.

It’s a young Magic team. They are the league’s third-youngest roster, and aside from Gary Harris and Terrence Ross, their primary rotation includes players all 23 and under. Jalen Suggs, one of two rookie starters on Mosley’s squad (Franz Wagner the other), is coming back from a 20-game absence through injury.

Expect the Mavericks (second slowest pacer in the league) to dictate the pace of play with their depth of experience on both sides of the ball.

Take care of the ball

The common point of a young team is the difficulty in dealing with basketball. The Magic are 21st in offensive turnover percentage, and they didn’t do themselves many favors by ranking 23rd in defensive turnover percentage. The Mavericks have improved defensively although they still don’t create a high turnover rate – but on the other hand, they do take care of the ball (fifth in offensive turnover percentage).

Both teams will play Friday night, and both teams traveled ahead of tonight’s game. Unusual turnovers or a lack of focus could haunt one or both teams tonight.

Take care of business

As previously mentioned, the Mavericks are in a tough programming period, with games packed on top of each other and top-flight opponents dotted between series of lottery-related teams. The Mavericks haven’t been at full strength in a while, and even still will have to find moments for Doncic and others to squeeze in a night off.

With this kind of roster juggling and All-Star break on the horizon, it can be easy to overlook these kinds of matchups. If the Mavericks have truly taken a step forward, and it looks like they have, these are the plays that will keep them in control and help them avoid the play-in tournament. While the Magic aren’t a tough opponent, that will be the real test of tonight’s game.

How to watch

Tip is set for 8:30 p.m. CST and will be watched locally on Bally Sports Southwest and NBA League Pass nationwide.

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