Setting the Table: Miami Heat (Game 26)

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on December 20, 2012 under Previews | Be the First to Comment

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The challenges now begin to really ramp up as the Dallas Mavericks (12-13) host the defending champions, the Miami Heat (16-6). Starting with the Heat, the next six teams on the Mavericks’ schedule having winning records. Dallas is looking to continue their success against the Eastern Conference. With the victory over the Sixers at American Airlines Center on 12/18, the Mavericks improved to 6-0 against Eastern Conference teams at home.

The Mavericks will come into the game against the Heat somewhat short-handed. News came  on 12/19 that Brandan Wright sprained his right ankle late in Tuesday’s win over the 76ers. Both Wright and Elton Brand (strained right groin) will be game-time decisions against Miami. Derek Fisher (strained patellar tendon) is likely going to be out for the game. The team is still awaiting results of the MRI Fisher had on 12/19.

Here are the notes for the game between the Mavericks and the Heat.

Series Notes:

What a series the Mavericks and the Heat have had. The Heat swept the 2011-12 season series with the Mavericks, 2-0. Miami snapped a 14-game losing streak against the Mavericks in the regular season with a 105-94 win at Dallas on 12/25/11. It was the Heat’s first victory over the Mavericks in the regular season since 3/26/04, a 119-118 overtime-win at Miami. The Heat then won 106-85 at Miami on 3/19/12 to take the season series, 2-0. The loss on 3/29/12 snapped the Mavericks’ seven-game winning streak at Miami. Dallas has still taken 17 of the last 20 regular-season meetings between the two teams. Dallas won the first eight meetings between the two clubs after the Heat franchise was formed in 1988. Miami won 16 straight games against Dallas from 1/25/92 through 12/20/99. Since then, the Mavericks have won 19 of the last 24 regular-season matchups from 2/1/01 through 3/29/12.

The Heat won their first NBA championship after defeating the Mavericks in six games in the 2006 NBA Finals. Dallas defeated Miami in six games in the 2011 NBA Finals. After losing Game 3 and going down 2-1, the Mavericks rattled off three straight victories en route to their first NBA championship. Of the previous 11 occasions a Finals series had been tied at 1-1, since the NBA Finals went to the 2-3-2 format beginning in 1985, the winner of Game 3 had gone on to win the championship all 11 times. The Mavericks rewrote history in 2011, and came back to win the series in six.

It’s a Small World:

Heat forward Chris Bosh hails from Dallas and played at Lincoln High School. Shawn Marion played in 58 games for the Heat from 2008-09. Mavericks forward Elton Brand and Heat forward Shane Battier were college teammates at Duke from 1997-99. Dahntay Jones transferred to Duke in 2000-01. Battier was named the NCAA Division I Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player that year, and the Blue Devils won the NCAA national championship (Jones was required to sit out in 2000-01 because he was a transfer student). Jones and Battier played three seasons together on the Memphis Grizzlies from 2003-06. Vince Carter played a season-and-a-half with Heat forward Rashard Lewis in Orlando from 2009-10.

Three Keys:

1. PROTECT THE BALL. With Miami’s athleticism, Dallas simply can’t afford to have live ball turnovers. If they do, the Heat will run the ball down the collective throat of the Mavericks. Miami forced 20 turnovers and scored 25 points off of those turnovers vs. Minnesota on 12/18 after forcing 21 turnovers and scoring 30 points off of turnovers vs. Washington on 12/15. Dallas recorded only 11 turnovers, for six Philadelphia points, in the win on 12/18. The Mavericks improved to 3-1 this season when they record 11-or-fewer turnovers in a game.

2. Shawn Marion must hold his own against LeBron James. The Mavericks will likely try to throw multiple weapons at LeBron James, but Marion is going to be the one who knows how to defend him based off familiarity. It won’t be an easy challenge as James is rolling. James scored 22 points vs. Minnesota on 12/18 and has now scored at least 20 points in each of the first 22 games this season, a new career-best, surpassing his previous high of seven to start a season in 2004-05. The last player to have at least 22 consecutive games of at least 20 points to open the season was Karl Malone, who opened the 1989-90 season with 24 games. Dating back to last season, James has scored 20+ points in 27-straight games and in 43-straight including the playoffs.

3. Stay the course on offense. Miami has been known for a suffocating defense, but they have actually been very pedestrian with their team defense this season. Dallas needs to use the momentum and two-man game between O.J. Mayo and Chris Kaman that was established at the end of the game against Philadelphia. Efficiency is key. The Mavericks shot 54.2 percent, 39-of-72, from the field in the 107-100 win over Philadelphia on 12/18. The Mavericks have now gone 20-1 in their last 21 games in which they shot 50-plus percent from the field in, at Golden State 3/16/11 through Philadelphia 12/18/12. The Mavericks’ only loss in such games during that span came in the 117-115 double-overtime decision at Boston on 12/12/12, shot 51.1 percent, 47-of-92.

Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.