Mavericks-Magic Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 19, 2013
The Orlando Magic's last two victories have come against division leaders. They just haven't been able to get the job done against teams below .500. Orlando will try to avoid a seventh consecutive defeat to an opponent with a losing record when the Dallas Mavericks seek a seventh straight road win in this series Sunday night. After ending a 10-game skid with a 104-101 victory over the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 12, Orlando was routed 120-91 by league-worst Washington on Monday. The Magic (14-25) rebounded with one of their better performances of the season, a 97-86 victory over Central Division-leading Indiana on Wednesday, but they opened a stretch of five in a row against teams with losing records with a 106-100 loss to Charlotte on Friday. "We're just still maturing as a group on how to (play at a high level) night in and night out," said swingman Arron Afflalo, who scored a team-high 23 points. Orlando, loser of seven of eight at home, hasn't beaten the Mavericks there since March 2006. The Magic defeated Dallas 100-98 on March 30 in the teams' last meeting. Dallas (17-24) was hoping to arrive in Orlando on a five-game winning streak, but its longest run of the season ended with a 117-114 overtime loss to Oklahoma City on Friday. "The thing that I like is that we're giving ourselves a chance to win against good teams," former Magic player Vince Carter told the Mavericks' official website after finishing with a season-best 29 points. "We're getting ourselves into overtime games. Now, we just have to learn how to close it out." The Mavericks have dropped eight of nine OT games this season, but the fourth-quarter play of Dirk Nowitzki has been a positive sign. In eight contests since returning to the starting lineup, he's averaging a team-best 5.8 points in the fourth after scoring 12 of his 18 in the final 12 minutes of regulation against the Thunder. Nowitzki had 28 points and hit the go-ahead jumper with 5.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter as Dallas rallied from 15 down March 30. Defense continues to be an issue for Orlando, as nine of its last 11 opponents have scored at least 101 points. It will face a Dallas team that's averaged 110.6 points in the last five games. Six Mavs have scored in double figures in each of the last four games. The last five meetings between these teams at Orlando have been decided by 10 or fewer points.
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