Preview: Magic try to pull out of recent slump against Mavericks
TV: FOX Sports Florida
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 8 p.m.
Dallas called on a couple of its youngest down the stretch on Saturday, and, man did they produce.
Rookies Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson combined for the final 15 Dallas points when the Mavericks won their ninth straight home game in a 107-104 victory over Houston to improve to 11-2 at American Airlines Center.
Orlando will provide the next test Monday, although the Magic have struggled recently. The Magic have lost four of their last six after a 22-point loss at home to Indiana on Friday and have lost six of nine since going a season-high one game over .500 in the jumbled Southeast Division.
Both teams started a little slowly, but the Mavericks have blown past that while winning 10 of 13.
“Analyzing streaks is not my bag,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said.
“Right now, we have to stay in this moment and prepare for the next game. We have an opportunity here with some home games to gain some traction, but it’s hard. Every team coming in here is going to be a problem.”
Dallas has been presenting plenty of problems for its opponents. Its defense has picked up, and both Doncic and veteran center DeAndre Jordan have hit seamlessly.
Doncic scored 11 straight points, including three 3-pointers, when the Mavs scored 15 of the final 19 points in the last 3:48 against Houston, which could not stop Doncic and could not make its threes at the other end.
The spurt began with Brunson’s 10-foot floater and concluded with his layup in the final seconds. Doncic finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and three steals, and he was one of six Mavericks scoring in double figures.
“It is pretty clear that he has a special flare for the moment and he is not afraid,” Carlisle said of Doncic.
“You don’t see that every day, and it was a unique three or four minutes that he put together at the end. I’d say that he is a terrific young player who is getting better all the time. Mavs’ basketball is 48 minutes and we know that we have to play the whole game out.”
With point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missing a second straight game because of a right wrist injury, Brunson made his second start of the season and had a season-high 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting. He also added three assists and three steals. It is unclear if Smith, who has missed three of the last seven games, will play Monday.
“He was great and if you look at all of his numbers tonight, you can see it,” Carlisle said of Brunson.
“This guy was the 33rd pick in the NBA draft? Come on. He earned this start tonight with his accumulation of play over the first six or seven weeks and his play in the blowout game against New Orleans. It just goes to show you how important every single minute is out there.”
Brunson helped lead Villanova to the NCAA title last season, one of four players from that Wildcats’ team drafted last spring.
“I’m just finding ways to change the game,” Brunson said. “From being active on defense, getting in the passing lanes and finding ways to make everyone better.”
Jordan had another double-double against Houston with 12 points and 20 rebounds, nine offensive rebounds, and he will face another challenge in Orlando 7-footer Nikola Vucevic.
Vucevic, in his eighth season, is averaging a career-high 21.0 points and 11.3 rebounds a game. He is tied for the third in the league with 18 double-doubles — Jordan has 15 — and has double-doubles in six of his last seven games. He also is on pace for a career-high in field goal percentage.
“I had a really good summer, but I think it also comes from the way we are playing this year,” Vucevic told reporters.
“It gives me a chance to more aggressive out there, more efficient. Playing inside-out. It really gives me a chance to get going, and once your do that you become more aggressive. I just feel comfortable out there. I don’t really like to look at all that stuff (numbers), but as long as it helps our team win, it’s great. I just want to stay aggressive.”
Aaron Gordon also had a double-double against the Pacers with 20 points and 14 rebounds, but Indiana led by 12 at the half and never was challenged.
“At either end of the floor, it looked like our first six or seven games of the year,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said in his post-game press conference. “We were disorganized, bad shots, no pressure on the defense, never into the ball, bad basketball.”
The Magic started 2-6 before winning seven of nine to get above .500.
Magic guard Terrence Ross is averaging 14.4 points off the bench and has made 20 3-pointers in the last eight games.