When the Miami Heat squared off against the Dallas Mavericks back on December 20th, coming away with a commanding 110-95 win in Dallas, something felt amiss. The Mavericks and Heat have an almost-rivalry dating back to the 2006 Finals, and when the two square off typically there’s at least some energy in the air. That night in December just felt off, and it was hard to place. The rematch Wednesday night in Miami gave us an answer in this 119-109 Heat win.
The German Elevator (or whatever his nickname is) was still recovering from offseason knee surgery, so the Mavs had been relying on OJ Mayo, Darren Collison and Chris Kaman to shoulder the load. Needless to say, this did not work. Though he only scored 19 points, it was his presence, his shot-making, his crazy motions, that did the trick. We all saw him at his best in ‘11. and any kind of Dirk isn’t to be trifled with.
When Dallas came to South Beach on Wednesday night, it was shades of 2011 or 2006 all over again. The fire both teams played with, diving for loose balls, taking and giving hard fouls, playing both ways with the intensity of June. It made for an incredible game in the usually dreary month of January. I’ll be honest, I tend to dismiss the regular season as nearly pointless. Yeah, it comes off as pompous, kind of jerky, but when your favorite team seems to not try, how can you really be expected to get amped up? This game was something else though. Pure competition.
The Heat fell behind early, trailing by as many as 11 in the second quarter from an 18-point explosion by OJ Mayo and a stout showing by the Dallas defense. The Heat shot 35% in the first half but still trailed 52-50 as it ended, since their defense held the Mavs to only 40% shooting. LeBron James scored nine points in the final four minutes of the second to close the gap.
LeBron finished 32 points with 12 rebounds and nine assists for his 10,000th almost-triple double, and should have had it if Ray Allen had made a wide open jumper late. He dazzled from start to finish, in one five minute stretch in the fourth quarter guarding Dirk, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Darren Collison, and even boxing out Kaman for a bit. It’s getting hard to shower him with platitudes. He also spent some time barking at Mario Chalmers, because the Heat aren’t playing to their full potential if Rio isn’t getting reamed out.
After only nine points in the first half, Dwyane Wade came alive down the stretch. He ended with 27 along with 10 rebounds and even if he broke his streak of shooting over 45% (he shot 9-for-2) he took care of business at both ends. Charles Barkley infamously said Wade isn’t the same player he was, but if that means being eighth in the league in scoring and shooting over 50% for only the third time in his career, well, I’ll take that Wade any day of the week. You almost wonder if Barkley was just being strategic, calling out a friend, pushing him to achieve and silence the haters.
A huge triple by Shane Battier in the waning moments was followed by a one-footed leaner by Nowitzki with four seconds left, and after a strangely contested shot by LeBron that was plainly not the first option, it took overtime to finish this one out.
Considering it was the first game of 2013, it’s quite a way for Miami to start the year. Defensively they had issues, mainly because Mayo is somehow automatic from three and Vince Carter is still old manning it around the floor, and Dirk is Dirk. But Miami rebounded well, considering what they’ve been doing this year, with Dallas only having three more than Miami.
Of course, Dallas is at the bottom of the league in rebounding differential, maybe this is a bad sign. There were a couple of multiple offensive rebound sequences for the Heat (they had seven as a team) that included Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem, but Wade still led the team with ten.
Plus, Chris Bosh had a quiet night, 17 and 4 on 7-of-10 shooting, though going against the larger, balder, more pimpled Kaman was certainly a test for Chris. Large German men abounded in the post, so you can understand if a finesse guy like Bosh wanted to stay away. No one wants any part of that.
It was destined to be a Heat win though. Shane Battier scored his first points in two games, three with 14 seconds on the clock to give Miami the lead and another three in overtime Ray Allen scored 15 on 50% shooting including a huge bucket to open the scoring in OT. If this is the Heat team that shows up in April, it’ll be parade time on Biscayne in June. Of course, they still need to defend consistently, but we’ll be saying that for another three months.
This team is such a tease. You see these flashes of stunning basketball against quality opponents, then next thing you know they go and take a nap against the Washington Wizards. It’s one thing to have teams play their best against you, but it’s another to lose to a team that STILL has less wins than 18-game losing streak Charlotte Bobcats. All we can do is wait for the calendar to turn to spring to see this team as it truly is.
At least, that’s the story we’re sticking with.