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Game #21: Dallas Mavericks (15-7) vs. Miami Heat (11-9)

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After a nice refreshing week off, the Heat will finally return to action tonight back at home against the Dallas Mavericks.  The Mavs are one of the best teams in the league and got even better in their last game when they welcomed back Josh Howard after the forward missed 13 games with a sore left ankle.  The Mavs are playing back-to-back games tonight and tomorrow (@ Charlotte), and the Dallas Morning News is reporting that Howard will play in only one of the two games, but its unknown which he'll play and which he'll sit out.

On the Heat's side of things, they could be without two of their starters.  Jermaine O'Neal could miss his second straight game while dealing with family issues in South Carolina. He attended the funeral of his uncle on Thursday and could be back in Miami in time to play tonight, but nobody is sure.  Even if J-O does make it in time, his minutes could be limited due to him being away from working out with the team all week.

Another likely game-time decision will be Quentin Richardson, who strained his right hamstring at the end of the third quarter of the Heat's win in Sacramento on Sunday.  While there is no tear, the Heat intend to keep it that way which is why they are treating Richardson with ‘kid gloves'.   I can't say I disagree...I'd much rather be without Q for a game or two instead of a week or two. 

 A key matchup will be at the power forward position.  Dirk Nowitzki is having another great season, averaging 27.0 points and 8.5 boards, and has been even hotter of late.  He's cracked 30 points in his last two games (32, 33) and in one of those games had four blocks and a pair of treys.  Guarding Dirk will be a great test for Michael Beasley, who has been showing lots of improvement on the defensive side of the floor but will certainly have his hands full with Nowitzki.  Of course there is always Udonis Haslem on the bench as an insurance policy, but if we have to put U-D on Dirk it will seriously cut into Beasley's minutes. 

GAME NOTES

  • Outside of the 06 NBA Finals, the Mavericks have really owned the Heat the past several years.  Dallas has swept the 2-game season series with Miami in each of the past 5 years (10 straight wins), and have won 16 of 18 overall.
  • Doesn't it seem like a long time ago that Shawn Marion was playing for the Heat?  Not quite; a year ago he was still playing for the Heat.  Now...he starts for the Mavericks.
  • I can't remember ever thinking to myself the night before a Heat game ‘I can't wait to see what Dorell Wright does tonight', until now that is.  I'm honestly quite anxious to see how the not so youngster responds after his best game in years. 
  • Dallas has the 10th ranked offense in the league averaging 101.7 ppg. 
  • The Mavs are 8-4 on the road, averaging 101.1 ppg.  The Heat are 6-5 at home and give up 93.3 ppg. 

Tipoff from the AAA is set for 7:30 and that place should be rockin' on a Friday night.  The Heat haven't played a home game in almost 2 weeks (12 days to be exact), so the fans should have a lot of built up cheering to let out.  Lets Go Heat!!