ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — As preseason winning streaks go, the Orlando Magic have a big one. Huge, really. Now if they can only play this way through June.
Maybe then they’ll have a title that would make them proud.
Dwight Howard had 20 points and 13 rebounds to help the Magic roll to their 21st straight preseason victory, 101-76 over the undermanned Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.
Howard was a perfect 7 for 7 shooting and added four blocks, and Vince Carter had 20 points to keep Orlando’s incredible — but otherwise meaningless — preseason streak alive.
“I’m ready for it to be real,” Carter said. “It would be great to finish the preseason undefeated, but it doesn’t mean anything.”
It shouldn’t be hard to stay focused.
Not so much because the Magic (7-0) haven’t lost a preseason game since the 2008 opener against Atlanta. Or that they can finish with another perfect exhibition season. No, Friday in Tampa is their first chance at LeBron James and the Miami Heat — nevermind how much the starters play in a preseason game.
“I’m sure we will (play),” Magic forward Rashard Lewis said, chuckling.
Orlando’s latest opponent wasn’t in any shape to keep pace.
Starters Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion were given the night off to rest, Tyson Chandler didn’t play the second half after cutting his right thumb and Caron Butler’s 15 points weren’t enough to save the Mavericks (3-4) from becoming Orlando’s latest blowout victim.
“We’ve got to be a team that challenges everything for 48 minutes,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’ve got to be efficient and we’ve got to challenge every inch out there.”
Dallas at least kept it close for a half.
Howard was active and aggressive from the start, and he had a pair of three-point plays — a dunk, then a layup over an outstretched Dirk Nowitzki — to propel Orlando to a 31-21 lead after the first quarter. After running away with big wins in every preseason game this year, it took Orlando some time to pull away from the Mavericks.
Dallas briefly came back with some sharpshooting to highlight a 21-4 run and go ahead by six points in the second quarter. But the Magic starters returned and again played heavy minutes.
A second-half surge of 3-point shooting and Howard dunks gave the Magic a 75-56 lead after three quarters. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy cleared the bench in the fourth, but even Orlando’s reserves kept pouring it on.
“The margin of victory and the wins is very deceptive,” Van Gundy said. “It’s a function of being healthy and a function of the end of our bench is still a bunch of guys who can play.”
The good news for Dallas: this one was only a warmup.
Of bigger concern for the Mavericks was a brief scare with Chandler, who cut his right thumb trying to block a layup by Howard just before halftime. Chandler was bleeding and grimacing in pain, and the injury required two stitches. He did not return.
“It will be all right,” Chandler said. “It’ll probably take about a weak to heal.”
The Magic are not just winning, they’re winning big.
Orlando has beaten its last five opponents by 25 (Dallas), 29 (Atlanta), 38 (Chicago), 13 (Charlotte) and 54 (New Orleans). And 13 of the 21 victories during the preseason streak have come by double digits.
“It’s nice, but it doesn’t really mean anything,” Howard. “It’s not going to get us the title.”
Notes: The Magic waived second-round pick Stanley Robinson of Connecticut after the game. … Magic officials said the NBA and the Elias Sports Bureau don’t keep track of the longest preseason winning streaks. … Mavericks rookie Dominique Jones, who grew up about 40 miles southwest of Orlando in Lake Wales, had about 20 family and friends in the stands. He finished with 14 points. … Howard was handing out CDs of his children’s music album, titled “Shoot for the Stars,” to players, coaches and others at the morning shootaround. The album is due out later this month.