Dallas (32-22) aims to continue its recent ride of success when they host the Miami Heat (37-14) Tuesday night. The Mavericks are winners of six out of the last seven, the most recent a 81-73 road victory against the Indiana Pacers.
The Game at Hand:
You won’t find many outside the Mavericks and maybe Heat fan bases that feel the still smoldering rivalry between the two squads. There aren’t any worthy extra curricular story lines here, but rather just two playoff teams that know this game holds great significance.
The Mavericks return home for this single game before heading on the road for another three-game trip. Miami continues its six-game roadie in Dallas tonight before finishing it up in Oklahoma City on Thursday. The Heat have won three of four on the current trip and eight of ten overall.
Miami defeated Dallas 110-104 in South Beach on November 15. LeBron James scored a game-high 39 points and Dwyane Wade added 17 points with eight assists and eight steals. Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 points in the loss, Monta Ellis added 20 points and Vince Carter dropped 21 off the bench.
Keys to the Game:
1. Force Miami into Tough Shots: The Mavs’ defensive focus was on point in Indiana six days ago. Can they replicate such a performance? Miami shoots a league-best 50.8 percent from the field. The Mavs chances greatly decrease if they allow the Heat to meet its average. Both teams have identical opponent field goal percentages (.461).
2. Rebound and Prevent Second Chances: This won’t be the easiest task for the Mavericks, but could be a deciding factor tonight. Dallas hauls in only 40.1 rebounds each game, good for third to last in the NBA. On this night they face the worst rebounding team in Miami who average a league-low 36.7 per game. The Mavs need to defensive rebound the hell out of the ball tonight. Box out!
Matchup of the Night:
Dirk Nowitzki vs. LeBron James
How can you go with anyone else? The best player in the NBA today against the greatest international player in league history. Both players with double digit All-Star appearances. Of course, LeBron played extensively on Sunday night, producing 22 points seven rebounds and seven assists in 33 minutes. Dirk on the other hand played a game low eight minutes.
In short, All-Star games fit the LeBron mold more so than that of Dirk. Fans get hype off alley-oops slams and highlight reel dribble moves which aren’t the Big German’s style. Dirk may be a little jealous of some Mavs teammates who had more days off to relax than he did, but all in all excited to be back with his guys ready for a strong playoff push.
Looking forward to a battle between two of the games greatest stars. This is an important game to Dirk and LeBron. Most teams have an average of 30 game left and they all matter to those fighting for playoff positioning.
“We played well (in Indiana) and it was great, but it’s over and we have to look forward now to Miami, who has played extremely well. They’ve won back-to-back games in Phoenix and Golden State, which is very hard to do. And they’re coming off the break, too, so it’s an interesting matchup.”
– Mavs Rick Carlisle
“Look, his game is timeless. It really is. He’s a great player.”
– Heat coach Eric Spoelstra on Mavs F Dirk Nowitzki
“I’ve probably taken it a dozen times this year and shooting over 60 percent. I call it The Dirk.”
– LeBron on his 1-legged fadeaway shot
When and Where:
The game will tip off at 7:30 CST and will air on Fox Sports Southwest
Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Mark Humphrey; Quotes provided by Dwain Price & Inside Report with Earl K. Sneed