- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “If you doubted their confidence as a contender, consider this: The Orlando Magic have at least thought about the idea of passing the L.A. Lakers in the standings in order to grab home-court advantage …should they face the defending champs again for the NBA title. That would also mean that the Magic already have thought about beating rivals Cleveland, Boston and Atlanta to get there. “We have mentioned it,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said, when asked if his team has kept track of the Lakers, who are 54-21.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “After his Magic resoundingly smashed the surging Dallas Mavericks to the tune of 97-82, [Jameer] Nelson reminded everyone surrounding his locker after the game that Orlando is still very much a championship contender and center Dwight Howard absolutely, positively should be in the MVP race. [...] ‘We know how good of a basketball team that we are. I’m not being cocky, but we know we can beat any team in this league when we play our style of basketball,’ Nelson said. [...] ‘I know I’m biased because he’s on my team and I might be criticized for it, but I really think Dwight should be the MVP, too,’ Nelson said of Howard, who had 17 points, 20 rebounds and five blocked shots. ‘The things he does go so far beyond just Defensive Player of the Year. He controls the paint, rebounds, blocks shots and scores. All of the rest of those MVP (candidates), they just score the basketball and don’t rebound and defend like Dwight does.’ ”
- Randy Galloway of the Star-Telegram: “On the offensive end, the Mavs seemed intimidated, particularly by Dwight Howard super-manning in the middle, plus, as advertised, it was a Magic rain storm of 3’s (a whopping 14-of-24). A question for Rick Carlisle. Coach, was that great D by them, or was that bad offensive execution by you? ‘Probably both,’ he said. ‘That is a good defensive team. They are going to make it hard. We had Dirk [Nowitzki] going for a while, but once they locked in on him, things changed.’ Of course, Carlisle made his most telling comment in leading off his postgame media session: ‘The thing that killed us was the 3s. We made a real effort to run them off the line. But they hit those shots they were missing last time [in February, when the Mavs won by 10 in Orlando].’ ”
- Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: ” It’s a bad sign in the NBA when the other team has twice as many 3-pointers as the number of assists you have. It was one of many bad signs for the Mavericks on Thursday night. They had problems at both ends of the floor, as playoff basketball arrived early and they weren’t quite ready for it. The Orlando Magic took charge in the third quarter and clocked the Mavericks, 97-82, at American Airlines Center. [...] While the Mavericks looked tired at times, it’s hard to pinpoint the back-to-back as the problem. They were 11-7 on the second night of back-to-backs before Thursday.
- Jeff Caplan of ESPNDallas.com: “The Mavericks are in a fight for the No. 2 seed in the West, but they’re hardly taking care of their home in the process. Clearly leg-weary from Wednesday’s night’s overtime struggle at Memphis, the Mavs were blown out by the well-rested Orlando Magic, 97-82. Still, with so much on the line, the Mavs were disappointingly sluggish on their home floor and fell to 3-3 at home since reeling off eight in a row during their 13-game win streak. They’ve had the awful blowout against the Knicks, a late collapse against the Celtics and now this double-digit loss that wasn’t close since Orlando extended its seven-point halftime lead to 10 and then as many as 18 in the third quarter.”
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “If nothing else, this game is a lesson in the law of averages. The first time these teams played, the Magic missed 21 of their 25 three-pointers and got just 6 points on 3-of-19 shooting from their bench. The odds that Dallas would limit the league’s fifth-best three-point-shooting team like that twice in one season were slim, and it showed. Within the first 2:07 of the second quarter, [Mickael] Pietrus hit a pair of triples to match the reserves’ output from the last game. But he didn’t stop there, scoring 9 more points the rest of the quarter with some aggressive, mostly in-control drives to the basket. Perhaps playing against his good friend Rodrigue Beaubois at the NBA level for the first time inspired him. Perhaps playing in the American Airlines Center, which he’s lit up before, worked to his advantage. Perhaps the week off and new pair of sneakers helped. The reason isn’t as important as the result, in this case. The Magic needed offense early, and Pietrus provided it.”
- Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game: “It was just a matter of time before Orlando’s defense came around. Dwight Howard (18 points, 20 rebounds, five blocks) is one of the league’s most influential defensive forces, and every block (and even goaltend) made the Mavs more and more nervous around the basket. Shawn Marion and Brendan Haywood passed up looks at the rim due to Howard’s very presence, and many more Mavs faked themselves out of a rhythm as they approached the basket. There are certain award races this season that have discussions or arguments involved. Defensive Player of the Year is not one of them. No player in the league has a more profound impact on the defensive end, and that’s just as obvious in what he does do (block shots, get mad rebounds, show aggressively on screens) as what he doesn’t (deter opponents from coming in the lane, alter shot selection).”