ORLANDO (AP) – Caron Butler scored 20 points, Dirk Nowitzki had 17 and the Dallas Mavericks became the latest team to topple the reconstructed Orlando Magic in a 105-99 victory Tuesday night.
Tyson Chandler added 16 points to help the Mavericks pull away in the fourth quarter for their 16th win in 17 games. A night after winning at Miami, they shot 50 percent from the floor, including 46 percent from 3-point range.
The Magic again looked like a team that hasn’t had time to hold a practice since newcomers Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu were acquired on Saturday. They’ve lost the first two games since the pair of blockbuster trades and dropped eight of their last nine.
The latest came on another monster night for Dwight Howard, who had 26 points and 23 rebounds but got no help from teammates. Howard has had at least 20 rebounds in three straight games.
This wasn’t exactly the home debut Orlando was hoping for its newcomers.
The Magic orchestrated two trades that brought Arenas from Washington and Turkoglu, Richardson and Earl Clark from Phoenix. They gave up Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat, plus a 2011 first-round draft pick, in the deals.
The problem now is sorting out how this revamped roster is supposed to work.
It wasn’t until the Mavericks went ahead by 12 points in the fourth quarter that the Magic — at least those other than Howard — showed any consistent fight.
Richardson’s 3-pointer with 56 seconds remaining trimmed the deficit to three. Then Jason Terry came back with a mid-range jumper from the wing, and Richardson followed with another from beyond the arc with 24 left to bring Orlando within two.
But the Mavericks would shoot free throws the rest of the way, and Orlando couldn’t find any more Magic on this night. While the Magic sort out how their revamped roster is supposed to work, opponents have already exposed their biggest weakness.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle activated four centers against the suddenly undersized Magic, who are without a true backup center with Gortat gone but are exploring options to receive another inside presence. The big lineup turned out to be a big plus.
The Mavericks went ahead by 12 points in the first quarter behind strong play from Nowitzki. The 7-foot sharpshooter benefited often when he was guarded by Turkoglu, usually a small forward, and other undersized opponents.
Orlando did show some zip with a a 17-2 run between the first and second quarters. The spurt was sparked by Arenas and Clark — and, surprisingly, with Howard and Jameer Nelson on the bench — and pushed the Magic ahead 31-29, with Howard leading a chest-bumping bonanza with every player during a timeout.
The celebration was premature.
The Mavericks regained control the rest of the way. Chandler had at least five dunks, almost all on wide open pick-and-rolls, and Dallas carved up Orlando’s defense to again go up by 12 points and held on for the victory.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)