Heat vs Mavericks Preview- Five Questions with SBNation Dallas

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 25: Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat makes a layup against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

To preview tonight's rematch of last year's NBA finals, we brought in Jonathan Tjarks from SBNation Dallas. We discussed the rivalry between the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat, the significance of tonight's matchup and the future success of the Mavericks in the Western Conference.

To view my answers to his questions about the Miami Heat, on the SBNation Dallas website, click here.

1. On a scale from 1 to 10, how important is this game to the Dallas Mavericks and why?

I would say about a 5. Dallas is in the hick of a very tight playoff race in the Western Conference and there's only 15 games left in the season so every game counts on some level. But a road game in Miami if you win that, that's found money. I wouldn't lose any sleep if they lost, that's for sure. I would say about a 5. Dallas is in the hick of a very tight playoff race in the Western Conference

2. What psychological impact does the Oklahoma CIty Thunder's win over the Miami Heat have on the Dallas Mavericks and what kind of message will Dallas convey if they hand the Heat their 3rd straight loss?

I'm not sure it has much of any. Dallas is a veteran team trying to integrate a bunch of different players back
into their rotation in a very short period of time and I don't think the actual 8-9 man playoff rotation is anywhere close to set right now. The Mavericks can ill afford to worry what other teams are doing, especially one in the Eastern Conference whose wins and losses don't really have all that much bearing on how Dallas is going to do this season.

3. What role can we expect Lamar Odom to play for the duration of the season and how significant is he to the future success of the Dallas Mavericks?
Lamar Odom should be getting 20-25 minutes a night coming off the bench as a 3/4. I know the fashionable
thing to do to bash his play right now, and it's easy to point out his lack of production on the stat sheet, but his length, athleticism and playmaking ability is absolutely vital coming off the Dallas bench, especially since there's very little else behind Marion and Dirk. I don't think it's a coincidence Dallas went 0-4 when he was on his shore leave.

4. Who is the X-Factor that needs to play well in order for the Dallas Mavericks to beat the Miami Heat?

Probably Rodrigue Beaubois. Dallas' biggest problem offensively is a lack of dribble penetration in the starting line-up so the offense can become very stagnant with four guys standing around watching Dirk. The Mavs are going to need Beaubois to come off the bench and change the tempo of the game. He's capable of getting 20 points and 7 assists but if he doesn't get going early, he can kind of get lost in the shuffle of their offensive attack.

Until Delonte West comes back from his finger injury (which is a much bigger loss than most people around the NBA realize), Dallas simply can't afford to not have Beaubois' dribble penetration if they're trying to beat an elite team.

5. Dallas is currently 5th in the western conference and are 10-14 on the road. How critical is it for the Mavericks to get home court advantage in the 1st round and what seed do you seeing them finishing as?

That's a really good question and I don't have a great answer for you. I expect Dallas to finish anywhere between 3-6 and there probably won't be more than two or three games separating those four teams. The only team in the West that's really separated themselves is the Thunder, so ideally Dallas could slide into the 3/6 seed line and get on the other side of the bracket. Either way, I think match-ups more than home court will dictate whether the Mavs can get out of the first round, which I'm cautiously optimistic they'll be able to do.
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