DALLAS - Someday, hopefully soon, it'll be a legit worry: The Dallas Mavericks will be so powerful that a lesser opponent will set itself up for a "trap game.'' It's Orlando at Dallas in a 7:30 tip tonight at the AAC and no, today is not that day.
Oh, I know all the forces working against Orlando. To wit:
*The Mavericks, for all their problems in recent years, do not lose to Orlando in this building. Dallas has won seven straight, the Magic having last won at the AAC in January 2011. And during this streak, Dallas average margin of victory is almost 18 points per.
*Does this apply to today's version of Orlando? Probably, as Orlando has now lost three in a row to dip to 2-5. Dallas, meanwhile, is 4-2 - good for first place in the Southwest Division, with its rare regrets having failed to properly close out games against the Blazers and Lakers that could've very well been wins.
*Are the Mavs also catching a scheduling break? Indeed. While Dallas has had a couple of days off since the OT loss to the Lakers, the Magic will be playing on the second night of a road back-to-back - one of the NBA's grandest scheduling challenges. Orlando registered a 102-94 loss at Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
*Can the the Magic score? Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is going to make the argument that they can if Dallas fails to crank up the defensive intensity tonight, and he might be correct. Orlando certainly has "interesting'' players in that department, including Aaron Gordon, Mavs offseason target Nikola Vucevic and newcomer Markelle Fultz. But Orlando can't seem to get to the 100-point mark in a game. Meanwhile, Dallas is averaging 117 points per, led by triple-double sensation Luka Doncic.
"We just feel like we've got to bear down more defensively," Carlisle said. "We've just got to bring up our physical disposition and really concentrate on it more."
"Concentrate more'' should not be asking too much. The Mavs, as improved as they are, are not good enough to cruise, not good enough to assume, not good enough to be "trapped.'' Not yet. And not tonight.