Dallas 111, Orlando 96

Orlando’s defeat cancelled out a strong performance from rookie small forward Maurice Harkless, who scored a career-high 20 points and added eight rebounds.

Vaughn had felt excited as tipoff approached.

The night before, back in Central Florida, Nelson and Arron Afflalo spoke up at halftime to implore their teammates to play better defense. Their impassioned words worked. After a first half in which they gave up 63 points to the hapless Charlotte Bobcats, they allowed just 42 points in the second half.

Vaughn hoped there would be a carryover into the game against Dallas.

There wasn’t. At least not at first.

The Mavericks started the game by scoring 42 points in the first quarter on 64.0 percent shooting — the second night in a row the Magic had given up a season-high point total in a game's opening period.

Everyone on the Dallas roster had an easy time scoring, from former league MVP Dirk Nowitzki to journeyman guard Mike James to aging power forward Elton Brand.

But Dallas (24-29) slowed in the second quarter.

After the Mavericks took a 48-32 lead on a fadeaway by Nowitzki, the Magic closed the quarter on a 21-11 run.

The Mavs hit just 23.8 percent of their shots in the period, and Nowitzki was the only player on his team to make more than one basket.

Had the Orlando defense suddenly played with some passion? Or had the Dallas offense lost its energy? Probably a mixture of both.

The Magic (15-39) kept up their momentum late into the third quarter, but Mayo’s hustle play set the tone for what followed.

And, now, the Magic await the trade deadline and word about Nelson’s knee.

Both are unwelcome additions to a script that’s all too familiar.