Dallas (2-6) is a demoralized and now desperate team following their 98-91 loss at Chicago last night - their fourth straight defeat. The top starters logged too many minutes, and after jumping out to a 24-5 lead, the Mavericks became defenseless while taking bad shots en route to a 36% shooting night. This team is regressing quickly, and following the loss to the Bulls, Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle was at his wits end, questioning his team's ‘fight' and their collective will. This team is showing it's age and the Mavs were outworked again by a Bulls team able to penetrate the lane and perform in the paint. Dallas has been shredded by quick, penetrating guards in their last two losses, and now must deal with Jameer Nelson while having all sorts of match-up problems against Dwight Howard in the paint. Howard leads the NBA in rebounding and is no. 3 in field goal shooting at 64%. Dallas is among the lower tier NBA teams in defensive efficiency while Orlando is top-5, and the Mavs shooting struggles were on full display last night and they are hitting just 43% this season. When a team feels the pressure to perform, lacks defensive intensity and the players start to push and force shots, the problems become more prevalent. This is especially true when a team that had experienced so much success is now at a crossroads and in disarray. Dallas gave it their all two games ago at home against the Lakers and came up short. The writing is on the wall, and Dallas is demoralized, desperate and on a downward slide.
Orlando (5-3) was the league's second best road team last season, and the Magic have been favored in every game this season and now find themselves as an underdog against a struggling and inferior team. Stan Van Gundy's team is the superior defensive club with a super star inside player and a team playing together with a clear chemistry advantage. The Magic players have been waiting in Dallas for nearly 48 hours following their 109-92 road win in Oklahoma City. Orlando was able to go on cruise control after building a 29-point halftime lead in that contest. Their top players are fresh as they continue a 3-game road trip. They should be able to power their way past a Dallas team in total disarray, still searching for answers along with their first home win. Look for the Mavericks struggles to continue and the Magic to get the road victory.