The Heat return to action back on the road after almost a week off to face their two-time NBA Finals rival. To get a better idea of Tuesday night's opponent, we talked with Doyle Rader (@TheKobeBeef) of SBN's Mavs Moneyball.
1) The Heat have won six straight against the Mavs since the 2011 NBA Finals. What do the Mavs need to do this time to counter the Heat, who look to be at full strength?
It would be nice to see the Mavs put forth the effort they did in the victory they had against the Pacers just before the All Star break. However, we all know the All Star hangover lasts about a week. It's a crap shoot. But, if the Mavericks want to win, or have a chance at winning, they need to play solid defense. Shawn Marion is Dallas' best defender. He will earn his money tonight as he will see time on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and anyone else that Rick Carlisle deems a threat.
Beyond Marion, the Mavs need to play solid team defense. Jae Crowder has been getting a lot of burn because he is active defensively. Offensively, he is less than a threat. Despite that, his length disrupts passing lanes. He will see time defending James and probably Wade as well. The rotations have to be crisp, though. Miami is too dangerous.
Ideally, Dallas needs to limit their turnovers. The Heat feasts on turnovers. If the Mavericks can control the ball and clean the glass they will have a chance. It's going to take an extremely focused effort.
2) Dirk Nowitzki only played a few minutes in the All-Star Game but hasn't missed any playing time since he sprained his ankle last week. Will this injury be a factor on Tuesday night or is it behind him by now after resting during the break?
No. Dirk, despite the image of "soft" that has speckled Nowitzki's early career, he is far from it. Nowitzki has played through injury upon injury. He doesn't fuss about it. In the locker room this season, he has joked about taking pain meds. He's 35. He's going to play through any injury that isn't serious.
3) The Mavs are winners of six out of their last seven games, including a solid win versus the Pacers on the road before the break, and have the eighth best record in the NBA. Are these Mavs the best team since the championship year and are there realistic expectations they could do some damage in the playoffs?
This is certainly the best team Mark Cuban has paid for since the championship. They have the fourth best offensive rating in the NBA. Monta Ellis is having a career defining season after a lot of skepticism surrounding his signing. His ability to get the rim is something that the Mavs have lacked since J.J. Barea left the team. This has opened up the floor for Dallas' shooters. Dirk, as everyone knows is deadly from anywhere on the floor except in the corners. Vince Carter, though not shooting as well as he did last season, is rounding into form as the season progresses. Further, Jose Calderon is deadly from behind the arc. He is the fifth best 3-point shooter in the league. Where this will get them, though, is the real question.
Dallas could potentially threaten some teams in the playoffs. It really depends on the the seeding. If they snag the eighth seed they will probably play the Thunder. I don't see them winning that series. However, if they can maintain the sixth seed, with Phoenix and Golden State slumping, things could get interesting. That said, getting past the second round, if they happen to get there, is a mighty tall order. Right now, they just have to get to the postseason. It should be their only focus.
4) Which matchup are you looking forward to seeing the most on Tuesday night?
It's Mavs versus Heat, the obvious matchup is Dirk and LeBron. However, I think the play of the centers will be key. Chris Bosh is a phenomenal floor-spacer. How he is defended will determine the game. Samuel Dalembert cannot defend him on the the perimeter. Neither can DeJuan Blair. Brandan Wright is Dallas' best option to guard Bosh.
5) What will be Carlisle's strategy to try to limit the Big 3's production, especially LeBron?
Who knows? Carlisle is a mastermind. He will do anything to put his team in position to win. This will actually be a great coaching duel. If you are a baseball fan, these coaches present an amazing pitchers battle. The bats will have to show up. Chances are, they will.