Remember when the Miami Heat couldn’t even fathom the thought of winning in the American Airlines Center of the Dallas Mavericks?
What a difference two years make. Since the Mavericks overhauled their roster the summer after winning their first title, the Heat have won three consecutive meetings, including two blowouts on the road. Miami’s 110-95 victory was the latest blowout over a Mavericks team that was playing without Dirk Nowitzki, Elton Brand and Brandan Wright.
It’s doubtful if any of those players would have had extreme significance. Even Dirk wouldn’t have been able to keep up with Miami’s high-octane offense and lockdown defense. The Heat built up an 11-point lead after the first quarter and bumped it up to a comfortable 16-point margin by the half.
Then the third quarter happened, and that’s when things started to get ugly with the Heat taking a 91-55 lead at one point. Dallas managed to whittle the lead down with a 34-point fourth quarter, but that only occurred with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade both sitting out the entire fourth quarter.
James and Wade had one of the easier nights of the year. LeBron broke Karl Malone’s record with most 20-point games to start a season, recording 24 points on 9-0f-13 shooting, 3-of-5 shooting from the three-point line, to go along with nine rebounds and five assists. It was his 13-point first quarter that paced the Heat to an early lead Dallas wouldn’t threaten throughout the night.
The 13 points was the most LeBron has had in a first quarter this season.
He was supported by Dwyane Wade’s 19 points, six assists and five rebounds, as well as Chris Bosh’s 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Miami’s offense was as efficient as it has been all year, shooting 54 percent from the field and converting 10 three-pointers, but it was their defense that truly set the tone, once again. Dallas had the look of a team without its best player, converting only 39 percent from the field and hitting a paltry 3-of-22 from beyond the arc.
It certainly didn’t help that O.J. Mayo struggled so mightily. Mayo had been playing well in the absence of Nowitzki, but had only eight points on 3-of-14 shooting, missing all five of his three-point attempts, on a night where he somehow fell for a pump fake from Dwyane Wade that came from beyond the three-point line.
Give that guy a scouting report.
Dallas was led by rookie Jae Crowder’s 15 points off the bench. He and fellow rookie Bernard James–12 points and 9 rebounds in 21 minutes–were the lone bright spots for a Dallas team that is heavily awaiting the return of their former MVP. Fortunately for them, Nowitzki has just started practicing for the first time since offseason surgery.
The Heat, on the other hand, are as healthy as they have been since the Big Three were formed. Terrel Harris is the only Heat player ailing and it’s only due to the flu. Every Heat player that was listed as active was given playing time, including James Jones, Dexter Pittman and Rashard Lewis all receiving action in the final three minutes.
Dallas couldn’t get the margin under 20 until garbage-time. A 36-point lead was trimmed to 21 with seven minutes remaining, which actually prompted coach Erik Spoelstra to call a timeout. Miami would score the next few baskets and put the game out of reach for good, allowing Spoelstra to momentarily relax before Saturday’s matchup with the Utah Jazz.
The Heat bench had another solid outing with Shane Battier’s move to the pine appearing to be the right move. Battier converted 3-of-7 from beyond the arc to finish with 13 points, four rebounds and two assists, while playing his usual stellar defense. Ray Allen also had a good night, ending with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting to go along with three boards.
However, he only converted 1-of-4 from beyond the arc.
The Heat now return back home for a big-time matchup with the Jazz. After getting outrebounded by the Timberwolves by 28, one has to wonder how the Heat will adjust against a Utah team that sports trees in Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.
Yes, Heat fans, it may be the time for some Josh Harrellson.