Following another great All-Star Weekend, the Orlando Magic will have three home games this week to try and get off to a fast start to the post-break season.
The first game on tap for the Magic is a "rivalry" game with the Detroit Pistons that's finally started to favor Orlando recently. Although the Magic have dominated recently, Detroit handed the Magic their first loss of the season in an upset back in November.
After what should be a win Wednesday night, the Magic will face a tougher task in the new-look Mavericks on Friday night. The game will be televised on ESPN live from Amway Arena.
Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood, the two new Mavericks' additions, will surely up the talent level in Dallas. Haywood finally gives Mark Cuban the inside presence he's been looking for. You may remember the Mavericks took a big swing for Magic center Marcin Gortat this past summer.
Caron Butler has stepped into the starting lineup right away, as Jason Terry voluntarily put himself back into the sixth man position in which he's excelled in the past. Watch for Butler to be a key, as he helped the Wizards to a win over Orlando a few weeks back with a dynamic 31-point performance.
The Magic could struggle a bit against the Mavericks as they have some good defensive players. Look for the key player to be Vince Carter on both sides of the ball, defending and going against Caron Butler.
This could be a contest that's decided by the Orlando bench, so pay attention to J.J. Redick, Ryan Anderson, Mickael Pietrus, and Jason Williams when they come into the game.
I'm looking for a strong second half of the season from Pietrus, as he's struggled recently. If Pietrus returns to form it would establish the Orlando bench as the best in the NBA heading into the playoffs.
I would consider the Magic to be the deepest team in the league right now, but they have struggled with inconsistency from their starting five, mostly due to injuries and taking time to develop chemistry on offense.
Look for more consistency in the starting five, namely with Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson to be key factors in the success of the Magic in the latter part of the season. The team's defense has been stellar of late—surprisingly, most of the woes have come on the offensive end.
Stay tuned for my coverage of all things Magic and look for recaps, as well as a preview, of the ever-important matchup with the Cavaliers this weekend.