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Mavericks cover on road against Magic

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - If the Dallas Mavericks are going to make it out of the early-season pit they dug, it will require a lot more nights like Sunday.

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Two days after seeing a four-game win streak snapped in an overtime loss to Oklahoma City, Shawn Marion scored 20 points, and O.J. Mayo and Vince Carter added 15 apiece as the Mavericks fought off a late Orlando surge and beat the Magic 111-105 on Sunday night.

The Mavericks led by 13 in the fourth quarter, before the Magic pulled within a basket in the final minute.

Dallas hung on, with a combination of late stops, timely free throw makes, and a boost from a bench that outscored Orlando's 40-28. Carter and forward Elton Brand combined for 29 of those 40.

``Me and Vince joke about that,'' Brand said. ``If it's not going well for the starting unit, that' our job, to come in and clean things up. That's what we did...and kind of righted the ship a little bit. Yeah, it's a new role, but I've kind of adjusted to it.''

The Mavericks earned their seventh straight road victory in their series against Orlando and now have five days off before hosting division-leader San Antonio on Friday.

``It's good to start winning again,'' Brand said. ``We didn't want to go into our break without winning again.''

In his fourth game back since returning from a sprained left shoulder, Glen Davis had his strongest offensive output and led Orlando with 24 points. He was followed by Jameer Nelson with 20 and J. J. Redick's 18.

But familiar turnover and defensive issues plagued the Magic as they lost for the third time in four games. They also fell for the seventh straight time to an opponent with a sub-.500 record.

``We'll continue to work,'' Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``That's the best part of it is we've got games ahead of us and we'll continue to work and that's our best approach. We've been there so we know that this team is capable.''

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said Dirk Nowitzki, who played in his 15th game following offseason knee surgery, may need until February to get back to full strength.

The former MVP had a modest game, finishing with 12 points (4 for 11 from the field) and seven rebounds. He scored six points in the first half, but was remained active with some early assists as Dallas built a small cushion after digging out of an early hole.

Still at other times his offensive game showed continued signs of rust, as he misfired on a handful of his trademark step-back jumpers. He found his game in some crucial moments in the fourth quarter, though.

The Magic closed to 89-81 on a 3-pointer by Nelson. Nowitzki then hit on back-to-back jumpers and blocked a layup by J.J. Redick that led to a 3-pointer on the other end by Carter.

Orlando still was within striking distance with 2:31 left, though, after a pair of free throws by Arron Afflalo and a basket by Redick cut the Mavericks' lead to 104-100.

Nowitzki came up short on a jumper with just over a minute to play, giving the ball back to the Magic.

Davis then promptly found Nikola Vucevic coming out of a timeout for a 17-footer along the baseline that cut the deficit to just two.

Dallas' Darren Collision hit a 3 on the ensuing trip that pushed the cushion back up to five, but Redick responded in kind on Orlando's next touch to trim it to 107-105 with 25.6 seconds remaining.

Nelson tied up Carter on an inbounds' play following a Dallas timeout, but the Mavericks retained possession after the jump ball.

Nowitzki was fouled and calmly made two free throws to end the threat.

``He's just missed some shots,'' Marion said when asked about Nowitzki's progress. ``Everybody bases this thing on missing some shots. He's Dirk. Like if he ain't hitting his shots he ain't himself. He's been playing well. ... He's back to himself. He feels good. His body feels good. His wind is back right.

``He's just missing some shots he normally hits. That's all.''

Magic guard Arron Afflalo said it's up to them to get a handle on their recent late-game and defensive issues.

``I've been in winning environments before and guys will figure it out in time, get tired of losing,'' he said. ``When it pisses you off enough, you'll start to make that adjustment mentally to your own game and apply the team to help win.''

The Magic zoomed out to a 20-8 lead, prompting a Dallas timeout.

While the Mavericks gathered around Carlisle during the break, Nowitzki became briefly agitated. He left the huddle and walked off to the bench, where he remained for the rest of the first quarter.

Without him, the Mavericks went on a 15-0 spurt over the next three minutes to erase the Magic's fast start. Orlando turned it over three times during the run, leading to several easy transition baskets by Dallas.

When Nowitzki returned, the momentum continued as Dallas took a 57-48 advantage into halftime, closing the half making 22 of 32 shots.

``We need everything,'' Carlisle said. ``It's been tough the first 41 (games). I think we're three back, we're in the hunt for the playoffs. That's going to be our motivation. We've got three quality practice days coming up. We've got to make the best of them and we have to keep improving as a team.''

NOTES: With Dallas' win, the road team has won each of the last nine meetings in this series. ... The Mavericks had a 48-40 edge on points in the paint. ... Davis was whistled for a technical foul with 9:31 left in the third quarter.

---

Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower

Copyright 2018 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written
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